Competitive Differentiation in Cloud Computing – “The horse-less carriage and typing pools”

Horseless CarriageI had a meeting with a prospective client earlier in the week and we were chatting about how differentiation and positioning in Cloud Computing has to mature.

The contention was that cloud computing vendors and service providers today are too inwardly-focussed and that they should look at the external market to determine their competitive marketing strategies. Cloud Computing differentiation bears all the hallmarks of early market strategy and is very limited. It got me thinking. Imagine if competitive differentiation was carried out in other walks of life the way it is currently carried out by most Cloud Computing vendors and service providers.

Imagine if Porsche for example had spent 7 years perfecting its new sports car, a car that was specifically engineered to be better than the comparable Ferrari in many very specific ways, a car that can do many things for its prospective owner. Imagine then if at the car’s launch it’s main differentiation was:

The Porsche 912 – you no longer need a horse to pull it along the road

Imagine if Xerox copiers, in an attempt to differentiate itself within the highly competitive markets in which it is present made the bold claim that:

The Xerox X987 – eliminates the need for corporations to maintain a typing pool full of typists to make copies of documents.

When the car was a disruptive new technology it was important to explain to its potential users how it was different from the paradigm it was replacing – the horse and cart. Likewise this was true with the discontinuous innovation introduced with the photocopier / photostat / copier. But once these technologies matured to the point where the paradigm was accepted and there was a genuine choice of suppliers to source it from, vendors then had to focus on their real competition and their real differentiation.

But today this is exactly how much of the differentiation in the various segments of the Cloud Computing market is currently carried out. Vendors and service providers have not yet made the leap that Cloud Computing is “an idea whose time has come”. So instead of aiming their fire at other cloud computing vendors, their differentiation strategies focus on the thing that they are replacing – the corporate data centre, on-premise hardware, non-virtualised operating systems, non-scalable web applicatons, etc.

horse drawn car

Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely essential that the prospect knows how cloud technologies differ from traditional technologies, but Cloud Computing vendors must also realise that they are in real competition for this business and lead with clearly drawn lines of differentiation between themselves and their actual, cloud-shaped competition.

The good news is that there are many “positions” still available to cloud computing vendors. And once these positions are established in the minds of  prospects, it will be doubly difficult for their competitors to change these perceptions.

Taking such a position now will give some vendors a great advantage in the nascent Cloud Computing market but others will just feed the horse and call “walk on”.

Danny Goodall

Posted in All Blog Categories, cloud computing, Competition and Competitive Intelligence, differentiation, marketing, Marketing Strategy, positioning and tagged , , , , , .

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