Cashier rings up groceries
Photo: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook and Google’s path to the enterprise runs through front-line workers

Protocol Enterprise

Welcome to Protocol | Enterprise, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about cloud and enterprise software. This Monday: Why Facebook and Google see enterprise opportunity in cashiers and factory workers, HashiCorp prepares to go public, and Red Hat's hiring freeze.

IT for everyone

The options for productivity software these days are endless. But that hasn't stopped enterprises from consolidating around a few vendors when it comes to the tools they use constantly.

Microsoft has owned the workplace software space for decades. And while the company has largely avoided the recent antitrust fervor sweeping through Washington, D.C., its market share can feel borderline monopolistic. In fact, Gartner estimates that Microsoft owns as much as 90% of the productivity software market.

  • There are over 200 million Office 365 users, many of whom could soon be paying more under Microsoft's new tiered pricing system. The gap between some of the next closest rivals is so outstanding that it seems wrong to even compare.
  • Google has around 6 million paying subscribers for Google Workspace, a suite of products formerly known as G Suite that includes Gmail and Google Docs.
  • Meanwhile, Workplace from Meta (you might know it as Facebook) has 7 million users. That product includes VoIP call instant messaging and intranet services, but doesn't include tools like word processing.

As Microsoft expands its influence, Google and Meta see an open opportunity to tackle what they believe is an underserved but predominant portion of the workforce: front-line workers.

  • The category captures a broad class of employees, like factory workers or cashiers at Walmart.
  • "We go after people who have never had IT before," Meta Workplace Vice President Julien Codorniou told Protocol. "We want to be the app that connects people who never had a desk, never had an email, never had a PC with the rest of the organization for the first time."

The strategy seems to make sense. Unless they've worked a traditional office job, lots of people are probably not familiar with a program like Outlook. However, many of those people likely use Gmail or Facebook on a near-daily basis.

  • "If you know how to use Facebook, you know how to use Workplace," said Codorniou.
  • There's some evidence to support that notion. For example, Gmail destroys Outlook when it comes to web-based email, according to an estimate from marketing vendor Litmus.

But targeting that audience isn't as easy as just rebranding Slack or Teams for workers outside the main office building.

  • Slack, for example, gained prominence because it let office workers communicate instantly with one another.
  • Front-line workers, however, may not need that capability. Instead, most will require features that are "asynchronous," or non-instant communication.
  • "You don't have to be in Workplace all the time. You can come to Workplace once a day, once a week, once a month," said Codorniou.
  • The application needs to be mobile-first because some users may not have access to a computer. And given many aren't going to be working closely with an IT department, the systems can't require a lot of training to get started.
  • "There's a lot of task and workflow management with front-line workers, versus document creation, sitting in a meeting or collaboration," said Kelly Waldher, vice president of marketing for Google Workspace.

The market potential is massive. Depending on which vendor you talk to, there are as many as 3 billion front-line workers across the globe to target.

And both Facebook and Google have opportunities ahead to compete more aggressively with Microsoft by capitalizing on the breadth of product lines within each company.

  • Facebook, for example, is becoming a dominant force in virtual reality. While it will take some years before VR is used ubiquitously, some enterprises are excited at the possibility ahead.
  • And Google, of course, has its own cloud offering that trails AWS and Microsoft Azure but is still growing in usage among large enterprises. It also has the Android and Pixel businesses.
  • "That's going to be an important base for us to be able to go in and cross-sell into," said Waldher. He added: "You'll continue to see us bring other parts of Google into [Workspace]."

But the challenge for Meta and Google is landing the typical enterprise software customer, a buyer for whom Microsoft remains a dominant force and other rival vendors such as Atlassian and Zoho are growing quickly.

  • "I want the people in the HQ and the people in the field," said Codorniou. "When we sell Workplace, we don't sell to 5% or 10%, we sell to 100% of the organization."

The reality is many companies are still going to be using Office 365, Slack, Okta or some other software that Google and Meta are trying to displace.

  • That's why both companies have invested in integration capabilities to make sure the systems can work alongside the other collaboration tools, a mission that nearly every other enterprise software vendor is also on.
  • "Offering choice with a reasonable set of integration costs can be a better strategy for them," said Waldher.

That doesn't mean there isn't a big market opportunity ahead. But to be effective, Google Workspace and Meta Workplace require much broader adoption within the enterprise.

  • "Workplace only works when you have the full deployment," said Codorniou.
  • That's not easy with a company like Microsoft looming large. But Google, which has for years struggled to break into the enterprise, finally seems to be getting traction. And Meta appears to be exciting corporate end users with its product investments.
  • The death of Office 365 is nowhere near. But the market is finally getting some long overdue competition.

— Joe Williams

(Editor's note: Last week was Joe's last week at Protocol. I'd like to thank him for his great contributions to Protocol | Enterprise over the past year, and wish him well in the future. And in other programming news, please welcome Kate Kaye to Protocol | Enterprise, who will be covering data and AI starting today.)


The future of enterprise content management has arrived. New research reveals what a contemporary platform now consists of and how top organizations are planning for the future and can achieve dramatic improvements. Read the report.

Learn more

This week on Protocol

HashIPO: HashiCorp could double its current $5.1 billion valuation in its upcoming IPO, which got underway this week with the filing of its S-1 statement. The company, which makes open-source and commercial tools that help companies operate on cloud providers, is already one of the most valuable private companies among enterprise infrastructure software providers.

Dark-mode colors: Turns out people like a little bit of color in their dark-mode coding environment. Protocol's Lizzy Lawrence talked to Zeno Rocha, the developer behind the Dracula color scheme for code editors, about the phenomenon that has been downloaded by 2.9 million Visual Studio Code users.

Financial corner

Notable raised $100 millionfor its RPA tools designed for the health care industry, valuing the company at $600 million.

Everlaw raised $202 millionto help build out its e-discovery software, which helps legal firms vet documents with machine learning.

Reltio raised $120 million as data-management platforms continue to draw interest in the wake of Apple's ATT mobile privacy move, valuing the company at $1.7 billion.

That trend also helped Treasure Data raise what it calledthe biggest round yet for a CDP startup, landing $234 million in funding.

Around the enterprise

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, AWS CEO Adam Selipsky acknowledged that it needs to be easier to use and pledged to roll out new services for non-engineers.

Microsoft officially joined the Java Community Process, offering to help support the still widely-used programming language.

Google invested $1 billion in financial services firm CME, which also ensures that it will handle CME's cloud needs over a 10-year partnership deal.

Red Hat will pause hiring senior engineers in a bid to cut costs in 2022,according to a report from The Register, which suggests further pressure on IBM to manage its bottom line.


The future of enterprise content management has arrived. New research reveals what a contemporary platform now consists of and how top organizations are planning for the future and can achieve dramatic improvements. Read the report.

Learn more

Thanks for reading — see you Thursday!

Correction: An earlier version of this report used the incorrect pronouns for Kelly Waldher.

Recent Issues