Monday, December 12, 2005

Google vs Microsoft, Beauty and the Beast

Microsoft has suddenly awakened to a company it sort of shrugged off and disdained as the new guys on the block that would have to prove themselves. A company called Google, the darling of Wall Street but, more importantly, the darling of search-engine users.


Like we say “Give me a Kleenex” when we’re talking about any brand of tissue or “can you Xerox that for me” in a copy store full of Canons, “Googling” has become the lingua franca of search. MSN Search doesn’t have that nifty, swingy ring to it, but the reputation goes beyond just that.


MicrosoftDid we ever think we’d be describing Microsoft as ‘old technology?’ But it is certainly a lumbering old behemoth compared to upstart Google. Microsoft manipulated the field of desktop personal computer software and operating systems, some say stealing their way to dominance and not making many friends along the way. Netscape, a browser competitor was an example of how Microsoft crushed all enemies through innovation, financial muscle and (when that failed) strong-arm tactics. The federal courts said they violated anti-trust laws and fined them. MS paid the bill and never looked back.


Bill Gates is an American icon, but his company thrives more through necessity than the free choice of eager consumers. Microsoft is so overpoweringly dominant in the variety of software written for its Windows Operating Systems that the computing world dares not wander off the reservation to Linux or Apple. Some say that dominance has flowered more by threat than choice. True or not, mostly because of proprietary pricing, software shot-through with various virus vulnerabilities and just plain arrogance, Microsoft dominates an increasingly unwilling market.


GoogleCompare that to the Google reputation for supplying what the consumer thirsts for even before it knew it needed a drink, always for free, always improving along the way, always anticipating the next big opportunity. Google never tied down a service and flogged it for income, they kept opening doors and allowing ad revenue to walk through. The public loves Google because Google seems to have a love-affair with its public, simple as that.


If Google were to introduce a Payment Gateway (and it looks as though they are), users will flock to it. Blogger is Google’s blog creation and management tool, which is free and then there’s Froogle, which helps you run down the cheapest price for a product, also free. Google Code promotes and contributes to Open Source Software and Image Search shows the images relevant to any Google search page. My own dream, which would be Microsoft’s nightmare, is a collaboration between Linux and Google to produce a competitive Operating System, which might be free as well and possibly downloaded from the Net. In the rapidly changing environment of today’s Internet, all kinds of useful stuff can be delivered directly, with no software needed, often free and supported by advertising.


That’s not a Microsoft template, but it fits Google exactly.


So, on the one hand we have huge, slow unpopular and powerful Microsoft up against pretty-big, quick, well loved and innovative Google. What’s at stake is enormous, as the digital world moves from personal and corporate computers to services directly provided within the Internet itself. Bill Gates has always claimed that Microsoft was fragile and its future survival subject to technologies that don’t even exist.


I always thought Bill had his tongue just a bit in his cheek. Maybe not.
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See Taking My Country Personally on my personal web site.