A Google Confrontation With Microsoft
I was checking out a book at my local bookstore when I came across a conversation with Marc Andresson about the Netscape – Microsoft rivalry. What he said was something to the effect that everyone was pumping up a Google battle with Microsoft, and that he had seen this before. Indicating perhaps that the outcome for Google would be the same as it was for Netscape. That prompted me to ask myself a couple of questions. The first question was why everyone wants Microsoft to be destroyed. The second question was why Andresson thinks Google – Microsoft would be the same as Netscape – Microsoft.
First of all, Microsoft of late hasn't done anything that terrible. In the past Microsoft has left a slew of software company hulls in its wake. Much of this is due to extremely aggressive, but not necessarily illegal business practices. None of the things Microsoft has done is worse than what Shell, Chevron, or BP does on a daily basis. They are not Enron or WorldCom. Why does everyone hate them?
I think it isn't so much that people think they have done something wrong, it is more that they are, and have been incredibly boring. At least to the consumer. Microsoft has been releasing good, and innovative software for the business, but they have been giving the consumer leftover table scraps. Google is completely customer focused, they have given end users something to be excited about. Even when you use Vista and there is cool 3D video, it is toned down and business suit like to better suit the huge enterprise. The biggest problem with that is that people don't want boring on their desktop, therefore they are so bored with Microsoft windows that they are almost ready to try anything.
Google is new, but they are already facing some of the hurdles that Microsoft has to deal with in being the market leader. The first is when people who used to like you when you were the underdog, start hating you just because you are popular. The second is when they start delivering products to better suit the business user, even the small business user, and giving the leftovers to the users who helped them make their business. That is what I see the spreadsheets, docs, and now the presentations to be. Most end users have either Excel, Word, or something equivalent, so why does any end user really need an online office suite. Also, to speak on the depth of features is far behind anything Microsoft has to offer, to address Eric Schmidt's point. But I could see, while I was at the web2expo, that Eric Schmidt is just chomping at the bit to take on Microsoft. I for one don't think they should be so anxious.
Google's hubris can still take them down. Microsoft, for all the comments that they are dead, are very dangerous. In fact, talking about the internet, just look at what happened when they released IE 7 and set the default search engine to live search. They quickly increased in market share, practically overnight. It was pretty clear that they did that in part to promote the live search, and also in part to show Google that they could hurt them. If Microsoft, and I strongly suspect they will take this tack, starts forking web standards again with IE 8, it will hurt Google.
Microsoft vs Netscape is not the same as Microsoft vs Google. First of all, Google has far more money than Netscape, but to Andresson's point, Google, so far, is a one trick pony. If you really look at their traffic, it is clear that people only use them for search. If that gets taken away, a lot of their bite goes away. Netscape was a one trick pony in that they only had the browser. The difference, besides money, is that Google has a little more engineering braun. They have the cash to buy 95% of an operating system, and the engineering power to turn it into a killer app. Netscape couldn't do anything once Microsoft took away their product. There is no way for Microsoft to take away Google's product right now. Because of their ties with Apple, and because of their ability to roll their own OS. Microsoft knows that they can, while not taking the entire OS market, put a big dent in Microsoft's OS penetration. So what we have right now is a stalemate.
There is nothing tragically wrong with Windows. It is just a snooze-fest, but Microsoft has the business market. If Google becomes a snooze-fest, what do they have? Exactly.