Business-to-business technology brands adjusted to new computing realities, especially the Cloud. And they advanced initiatives for corporate clients that invested again in IT and sought ways to organize and analyze big data.
If one development summarizes this movement it’s the announcement by Microsoft that the company is changing leadership, with founder and technology visionary Bill Gates returning in an active advisory role.
The brand continues to thrive based on the Gates legacy of products, including Microsoft Office, the suite of computer software installed on the majority of devices for personal and enterprise use. The company enjoyed some success with the launch of Windows 8. And the Xbox business remains strong.
These legacy achievements drove revenue and profit, which pushed up brand value 29 percent, lifting Microsoft several places to number four, after IBM, in the BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2014.
But Microsoft hasn’t developed other breakthrough products and the advent of the Cloud threatens the ubiquity of its Office suite. Microsoft is not alone in struggling to remain relevant in a world based on Cloud and mobile computing, where people switch constantly and seamlessly between their work and private lives.
The Cloud pay-as-you-go model disrupted the business of some of the most respected technology brands, which built businesses around long-term contracts and client relationships. With pay-as-you-go, costs are reduced from major capital expenditures to running costs. And unlike with an investment in mainframes, need always matches capacity. Other related trends and developments include:
Brand is critical during a period of transformation. The strength of the IBM brand, its association with solving big global problems, provides flexibility even during periods of business transition and flat financial results.
Facing the challenge of being a leading PC maker at a time of declining PC sales, Dell founder Michael Dell took the company private to make the necessary fixes without the scrutiny of Wall Street and the pressure of quarterly results, and to take control of the brand story.
One of the largest competitors for enterprise Cloud business is a retailer named Amazon.
Investing in Cloud
Every technology leader invested in Cloud in ways that are most relevant to its core brand proposition. Cisco, known for building and maintaining switches and routers that run the Internet, announced in early 2014 that it plans to invest $1 billion over two years to enter the Cloud computing service business, linking the mainframes that together form the Cloud. Cisco calls this work the Intercloud.
IBM continues to develop its Cloud capabilities. It’s also building its big data and analytics teams, looking to expand into various industries, including marketing consultation. Siemens, an industrial technology company, continues to undergo restructuring and organizes its business into four sectors: energy, healthcare, industry and infrastructure and cities.
Strengthening the core
SAP and Oracle accelerated their shift to the Cloud, even as they strengthened existing business. SAP continued to record sales growth and experience success with Hana, its in-memory system for analyzing big data quickly in ways that make it accessible and relevant throughout an organization.
At the same time, the company shifted rapidly toward Cloud computing, which changes the business model from the software license business where payment is received up front.
Oracle’s Cloud business improved significantly, but the brand still faces competition, much of it from pure online businesses. As Oracle adjusts its business for the changing technology, it’s helping its enterprise customers do the same thing, by providing Cloud applications, like Oracle’s Exalytic in-memory and software. Oracle says one of its key benefits is simplification.
Recovering from the PC focus
HP turned a modest profit and its stock price rebounded as a turnaround seemed to gain traction with a revised strategy that includes providing complex technology systems to corporate clients and selling PCs and printers to consumers. The company has streamlined and added efficiencies with Internet-based programs, such as Salesforce.
By combining its computing hardware expertise with the Cloud capabilities of Clouderia, Intel worked to evolve from a business associated with memory chips for PCs into a brand with a Cloud platform for enterprise solutions. With the growth of wearable technology, Intel investigated acquisitions for entering that business.
Some companies/brands create products to sell to people; others try to solve consumers’ problems or big problems that people face. For example, Google announced that it wants to explore ways to slow aging, something cosmetics companies have been trying to do for years. Facebook is creating a global community through allowing people to connect. If you look at how Google and Facebook operate, they start with a digital platform and then build a business around consumers’ needs and interactions.
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