Microsoft Destabilized by Google
July 26, 2009
I enjoy John Dvorak’s “crankiness.” When I worked at Ziff Communications in the hay day of computer magazine publishing, he was a home run hitter. If I turned up on his door step, he wouldn’t recognize me, but I would recognize him. He’s ubiquitous, and I think he is close to the “truth” about Microsoft.
I want to piggyback on his “Is the Party over for Microsoft?” that ran as a “second opinion” essay on July 24, 2009. He provides a good run down of the distractions to which Microsoft succumbed. But in my opinion, these distractions gained greater urgency when Microsoft realized that Google was a really big problem.
Here’s my take on the Google factor:
First, Google was a champion of open source. I don’t think Google woke up one sunny day in 1998 and said, “We are all for open source.” I think the company, once it got some cash, realized that open source could bleed Microsoft’s attention and revenue. There was only an upside for the Google because it didn’t have the legacy problem and the established base’s need for backwards compatibility. So, the Google rotated about 10 degrees and became an open source engine. Microsoft’s various executives have pointed out that open source was a problem. I will leave it to others to provide the history of Microsoft’s open source, Unix, and community initiatives. While Microsoft thrashed with open source, the Google chugged along.
Second, Apple has been a thorn in Microsoft’s side for a long time. When Apple realized that Google had Mac power connectors in its conference rooms and no Microsoft compatible power connectors, the love bond between Apple and Google grew in intensity. With Eric Schmidt on the Board and Googlers dropping to the Unix command line in their ubiquitous Mac notebooks, the folks at Microsoft had a new problem. Google and Apple found common ground in their desire to give Microsoft a digital (see the illustration below for nerd humor), the two companies cooperated to annoy Microsoft. My hunch is that the annoy Microsoft aspect of the Google Apple tie up is the driving force. Yep, I don’t pay much attention to the “competition” between the iPhone and Google’s telephonic dreams. Google is building the 21st century AT&T. Apple is the “new Sony”. I see symbiosis.
With two outfits with lots of smart nerds, Microsoft had its hands full because together Google and Apple make Microsoft’s technology look pretty lame. Enterprise search is just one example. Microsoft has no product that is industrial strength that can be deployed quickly. Google offers a search toaster which is good enough. Vaporware is not a box shipped overnight from Dell Computer, another outfit squabbling with Microsoft. So Google and Apple doubled Microsoft’s pain. Google with enterprise initiatives and Apple with killer ads that made fun in a nice way of the Microsoft technologies.
Third, Google has proved hugely disruptive to Microsoft’s internal teams. Bing.com, for example, is a response to what Google was in 2007, not what Google is today or even more telling what Google is becoming. Where is a Microsoft dataspace initiative? Google’s Wave is rolling toward a broader developer shoreline and Microsoft’s dataspace row boat is still docked.
Add this up, and I see that Microsoft’s woes have been given a couple of twists of the thumbscrews because of Google.
Mr. Dvorak is right. Don’t get me wrong. I just think the Google is a much bigger factor than most of the pundits, mavens, azure chip consultants, and analysts have recognized. Now Google is on the path to be the next Microsoft. As I wrote in 2004 or 2005, Microsoft is now the next IBM. IBM is now a consulting company.
Looks like I was spot on when I pointed out that Google was moving to “check mate” mode in its relationship with Microsoft. Zune, Xbox, Codd based SQL Server, and ribbons won’t do much to stop the decline.
Stephen Arnold, July 26, 2009