Facebook’s fresh acquisition of Onavo is the network’s latest step towards boosting web access for its most prized target – you. It’s another example of how Facebook, a consumer service, is investing in the underlying technology that connects you to the web, ultimately ensuring its connection to you as a user.
It makes sense that Facebook would be interested in the business of consumer IT, especially in the mobile sector where the social networking giant is still building its user base in developing countries. But it’s not the only consumer-facing company that’s interested in connecting users. From Google to Amazon, and Apple to General Electric, there seems to be a growing interest in monetizing the consumerization of IT.
One IDC report predicts that the worldwide smart connected device market will accelerate past two billion units by the end of 2015, attaining a market value of $735.1 billion. Beneath those billions of units are the servers, storage and networking components that will make an easier task of efficiently connecting users and machines alike. The IaaS business has been promising in the enterprise sector, and we’ve already seen tech giants Amazon and Google turn their hyperscale technology into commercial products (AWS and GCE respectively – read a comparison here). So will the same happen in the consumer space?
4 Brands Commercializing IT for the Masses
Here’s a few examples of consumer brands that are angling towards infrastructure services, from hardware to networking components, acting as regular Rockefellers of the tech space:
Over the weekend Facebook acquired Onavo, an Israel-based company that lets you use less data on your smartphone, for efficiency sake. This buy, estimated between $150-$200 million, is specifically beneficial toward’s Facebook’s goals of powering the web in developing countries, where mobile internet access is on the rise and Facebook has plenty of growth potential.
To cut down on smartphone data usage, Onavo leverages compression technology. The perk is evident in the developing world, where the infrastructure does not yet support competitive data plans, the end result being less data used, and charged, for mobile users. The company already had major telecom investors including Motorola Mobility Ventures, as well as Sequoia Capital, Horizons Ventures and Magma Venture Partners.
- Facebook’s “IaaS” partners connect users + brands
Facebook has been to this dance with other partners, too. In a recent team up with Cisco, Facebook launched a program to allow retailers to take advantage of information willingly given by shoppers who opt to share them when they connect to the free WiFi.
They’ve made the act of connecting to free WiFi an easy task, too, requiring just a user’s Facebook credentials. And with that, retailers, hoteliers, restaurants, and more businesses will be able to engage and analyze what customers and guests want.
Though Facebook WiFi’s security and privacy has been questioned, the fact that it’s free, there’s a huge chance that Facebook users will have no problem checking-in and sharing a bit of information.
- Appeasing the open source community
Even if Facebook isn’t ready to make a business of it, the social network is actively working in the field to help improve technology, even if for selfish reasons.
In August, Facebook unveiled its version of Apache Giraph, an open source project set to unleash “the potential of structured datasets at a massive scale.” Facebook is in the process of using Apache Giraph to analyze its Social Graph since it is able to scale at an incredibly high rate. What this means for consumers is better search results in a small amount of time.
Unlike Facebook, Apple offers its own hardware direct to consumers with products like with the AirPort Time Capsule. With this, Apple is able to offer the hardware and software solutions required to keep its ecosystem an enticing one.
The AirPort Time Capsule features three Gigabit Ethernet jacks for client computers and networking gear; a USB 2.0 port for connecting a printer or additional storage device; a fourth Ethernet port for your Internet connection; and the figure-of-eight power socket at the back. It now uses next-generation 802.11ac Wi-Fi from Broadcom, which facilitates 5G WiFi speed. The 2013 model now delivers up to 3TB of storage and automatically backs up data via WiFi. This is intended for use by small businesses but no one’s stopping you if you want to use it for personal or home sharing use.
This is only one of the many physical products Apple sells to connect, or enhance your connection, to the devices it sells. Apple’s peripheral product market has been an essential one for the consumer electronics maker, ensuring the survival of its own ecosystem beyond just the hardware components.
Google’s been experimenting with a few things, more notably Google Fiber. And back in July, Starbucks announced that it has partnered with Google to provide next generation WiFi offering for its customers. Because of Google, Starbucks customers will enjoy using internet connections that are up to 10 times faster. The deployment of Google in Starbucks stores will happen over the next 15 months to upgrade more than 7,000 US stores. Starbucks and Google will also work on co-developing the next-generation Starbucks Digital Network.
“Google has always invested in projects that help the Internet grow stronger, including projects that make Internet access more affordable and more widely available. We hope that speedier Internet will make the time customers spend at Starbucks even more enjoyable and productive,” said Kevin Lo, the General Manager of Google Access.
Below is a clip of Contributing Editor John Casaretto discussing Google Fiber and the emerging market around consumer infrastructure services:
GE has also been using its consumer product reach to enhance its portfolio through key partnerships on the infrastructure side, spanning the healthcare, telecom and commercial travel industries. The appliance maker is bullish on the Industrial Internet, recently announcing an “industrial strength” Big Data and analytics platform, robust enough to handle data produced by large-scale, industrial machines in the cloud. It will allow airlines, railroads, hospitals and utilities to manage and operate critical machines such as jet engines and gas turbines in the cloud – running businesses better by increasing productivity and reducing waste and downtime.
Making a business of consumer connectivity, GE has teamed up with AT&T, Cisco and others to do the same for the consumer market. Machine-to-machine communication will enhance lives on an individual level, and provide GE a wealth of data that can be applied to commercial and enterprise solutions as well.
GE’s partners are making similar strides. Pivotal, the EMC-VMware spinoff, recently signed an agreement to acquire Xtreme Labs, a privately-held development studio based in Toronto, Canada. Pivotal plans to use Xtreme Labs to break into the mobile industry. Xtreme Labs currently employs 300 people and Pivotal plants to grow it to 500 and double down on enterprise mobility with “agile application development services,” a direct response to the consumerization of IT that’s literally revolutionized the workplace.