Google Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai keynoting his company's I/O event earlier this year.
Google Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai keynoting his company’s I/O event earlier this year.

(Note: After an award-winning career in the media business covering the tech industry, Bob Evans was VP of Strategic Communications at SAP in 2011, and Chief Communications Officer at Oracle from 2012 to 2016. He now runs his own firm, Evans Strategic Communications LLC.)

CLOUD WARS – While Amazon and Google will no doubt compete savagely for cloud superiority in the data center, it’s fascinating to see the wildly different approaches the two tech superpowers are taking to a more-traditional business that’s been around since an enterprising caveman first bartered an oak club for a saber-toothed-tiger cape: retail.

As Amazon revs up its retail and omnichannel engines with its $13.7-billion Whole Foods acquisition, Google is revolutionizing the dynamics of how people engage with and buy from retailers on the backs of mobile devices, real-time advertising, big data, AI, and more-intimate data-sharing partnerships with store owners.

These latest examples of the relentless innovation streaming out of both companies underscore why I’ve got Amazon ranked at #2 on my Cloud Wars Top 10 list (tied with Salesforce.com), and Google at #6. (Microsoft is #1.)

The Cloud Wars Top 10 rankings for June 20 have Amazon tied for #2 and Google at #6.
The Cloud Wars Top 10 rankings for June 20 have Amazon tied for #2 and Google at #6.

Bob Evans

The Cloud Wars Top 10 rankings for June 20 have Amazon tied for #2 and Google at #6.

There’s plenty of room for both Google and Amazon in the rapidly morphing world of retail—which might more accurately be called omnichannel since brick-and-mortar shopping has become only one element of a multi-faceted approach to meeting consumers’ needs—and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google expand its fledgling foray into retail.

And Amazon, true to its relentless approach to all of its businesses, will certainly extend and deepen its already-impressive utilization of everything from retail-related data science, advertising science, logistics, and AI.

Indeed, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods has some observers forecasting an Armageddon-style showdown between Amazon and WalMart, the world’s largest retailer. While intriguing in some respects, I think that store-to-store theory misses the deeper and more-disruptive strategic dynamic that powers everything that Amazon and Google do: data and AI (Artificial Intelligence).

However those details shake out, the sheer financial, intellectual, and market-moving prowess of those two business behemoths will accelerate the demolition of the traditional retail business and supplant it with an entirely new type of business that’s hard to define: is it retail? Omnichannel? Data-driven fulfillment? Mobile commerce? Fusion of demand chain and supply chain?

I suspect that some or maybe all of those terms are too limiting or too imprecise or simply not forward-looking enough to capture the essence of what this new consumer-centric, data-driven marketplace will encompass. But as a model…