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The Privacy and Platform Wars Taking Place in the Enterprise — and Why a New Browser May Signal a Market Shift
Zoho's recent release of its new browser, called Ulaa, hints at a broader war taking place within the enterprise around privacy and platforms.
👋 Hi and welcome to The DX Report — all about Digital Transformation, the Digital Experience, and the Digital Enterprise. I’m industry analyst, author, and speaker Charles Araujo, and I’m all about providing insights and analysis for enterprise IT leaders as you make the big bets about your organization’s future!
Note: I’m introducing a new format for The DX Report in which most issues will follow a structure of “the bet,” “the briefing,” and my recommendation. I’ll explain it all in the next issue, but I’m previewing the approach today!
The Bet: Making Privacy and a Unified Platform Central to Your IT Strategy
There are a couple of big movements afoot within enterprises — and they appear to be synchronizing.
The first is privacy. It’s a topic that’s been bubbling for a long time, but has recently come to a head with the advent of generative AI. The question that has loomed over enterprise leaders has been how much to care about it.
The second is the rising dominance of enterprise platforms — integrated suites of products that cover a large swath of enterprise needs. Here, the question is whether or not they are more good than bad. If you invest in platforms are you giving something up for the convenience and built-in integration?
Note: Keep reading for a video interview with Zoho’s Tejas Gadhia on this important topic!
While the issues of privacy and platforms are interrelated and increasingly intersecting, making your bets on them also entails very distinct calculations. So, let’s begin by looking at each one separately.
Privacy: Does Anyone Care?
Privacy has been an above-the-fold issue for enterprise leaders for some time. But it’s mostly been about compliance. GDPR, HIPAA, and countless other regulatory statutes have made privacy something that every IT organization must worry about.
But more recently, consumer-level privacy concerns have caused organizations to look at the issue more closely — both in customer-facing use cases and internally. Concerns around things like company trade secrets being fed into large language models (LLMs) has only heightened concerns.
Among other developments, this heightened awareness of privacy — combined with a growing understanding of how much data is harvested by the browser — has led to a rash of new privacy-centric browsers (e.g., Brave, Duck Duck Go, etc.) and a broader focus on privacy by even major browser players like Apple with its Safari browser and Google announcing the elimination of third party cookies in Chrome.
Still, ask most enterprise IT leaders how much they’re paying attention to these privacy concerns, and you’ll likely get a shrug. There appear to be much bigger fish to fry for browser-level privacy to rise to the top. Likewise, there seems to be only mild interest or concern among rank-and-file workers, who generally appear happy using whatever enterprise-mandated browser you offer.
The big question facing IT leaders, however, is whether this is one of those issues — much like most parts of the cybersecurity and risk estate — on which IT should be leading the charge? The risks certainly appear high enough to warrant consideration.
The challenge is that privacy concerns can often run counter to the other, intersecting trend: the evolution of enterprise platforms.
Platforms: At What Cost?
The best-of-breed vs. integrated suite decision has been a back-and-forth tennis match for decades. The tide has tended to shift with the emergence of new technologies.
As new technologies change the landscape, enterprises would gravitate to best-of-breed solutions to take advantage of the innovation coming out of small, purpose-built start-ups. Then, as things settled and matured, the technology would get incorporated into larger suites, negating the need for entire classes of technology and offering enterprise leaders the opportunity to simplify and standardize.
At first blush, the rise of the modern enterprise platform would appear to be the latest ball batted over the net in this protracted match.
There’s some truth to that viewpoint, but I think it also misses a larger, more important point: platforms are now the foundation of the enterprise tech estate.
The defining characteristic of the modern tech stack is its complexity. The relatively small footprint of yesterday’s tech stack made this tennis match possible. While there was plenty of hard work and costs involved, we could move between best-of-breed and integrated suites without it being a death match.
That’s no longer the case. And that’s also why we’re no longer referring to these as integrated suites and are instead calling them platforms.
The distinction is that they have become the foundation upon which enterprise IT leaders will build everything else. It’s no longer an either-or question, it’s an and. Innovation is still going to continue to occur on the edges, but it will happen on top of the enterprise platforms that are the bedrock of the tech stack.
Privacy and Platforms Intersect
It is this criticality of the platform that brings privacy to the forefront of concern for enterprise IT leaders.
If the platform is the foundation, then both which platform you choose, how you access it, and how you integrate to it become all important. Everything is connected.
And I think this connectedness is why we’re seeing some interesting moves in the market that are attempting to address privacy and platforms as an integrated whole.
The most recent — and arguably most vigorous — move has come from Zoho which recently introduced a privacy-centric browser it calls Ulaa. What is most interesting about its effort is how much it is leaning into both sides of this debate.
Not only is it unabashedly making the case that privacy should be a primary concern to the enterprise, it is also making its platform a central part of its browser strategy. While it is still in the early stages, it is planning on deep integrations between its platform and its browser to deliver improved performance and a more seamless experience.
I recently had the opportunity to discuss this interesting intersection of privacy and platforms with Zoho’s Ulaa Evangelist, Tejas Gadhia. You can watch it below for his explanation for why the company is wading into this deep water.
The Brass Tacks: Invest, Pass, or Hold?
For me, this one is pretty straightforward. I think that both privacy and platforms are winners. Let me give you my rationale in reverse order.
As I laid out above, I believe that the current complexity of the tech stack has shifted the landscape. It’s no longer a tennis match. You need to have a set of platforms that sit as your rock-solid foundation, on top of which you innovate.
In all likelihood, that foundation will represent a collection of platforms.
The reality is that you’ve probably already made those bets and there’s little advantage (and lots of cost and heartache) in unseating them. But if you have a bunch of competing and overlapping solutions, carefully choosing a set of platforms to serve as your foundation is a super strong investment to make. Platforms win.
Note: The whole question of platforms is a big, meaty subject and also central to something that I’ll be announcing next week. So stay tuned for more on this important subject. (Edit: The analysis, How You Can Accelerate Innovation By Building a Digital Transformation Platform, is now available.)
Privacy is also a winner and something you should be investing in a lot more than you probably are today. There are two reasons. The first is that it’s unlikely that the regulatory environment is going to ease. In fact, it’s more likely to get even more stringent.
But the second reason is more important: I do think people — your customers and your employees — will begin to care deeply about the subject. While I think Apple and Zoho are on the leading edge of this, we are starting to see increased awareness across the board — and the rise of generative AI, with its incumbent privacy issues, will raise both awareness and the stakes even more.
Most importantly, as Tejas told me in our interview, what do you have to lose? There is so little downside to an investment in privacy that the greatest risk is in doing nothing.
While I first questioned Zoho’s entrance into the browser market — particularly with a privacy-centric play — I’ve come to appreciate that it may be at the leading edge of a broader shift in how the enterprise builds its tech stack: putting privacy and platforms at the foundation of it.
So, that’s the brass tacks for my point of view, but what do you think? Agree? Think I’m completely off? Let me know!
And don’t keep this conversation to yourself. Invite your friends and associates to weigh in!
Disclosure: Zoho is a client and paid for my travel to its Zoholics event, where I conducted the above interview. However, Zoho had no editorial input into or review of this content.