Microsoft, Google and control of the web

Richard McManus has a great post covering Ray Ozzie's speech which I wrote about last week. He does a very good job of putting both Ray's comments in perspective as well as the general landscape of the web. I wanted to make a few comments, because I don't know that I was as clear as I could have been in my previous post.

Richard MacManus has a great post covering Ray Ozzie's speech which I wrote about last week. He does a very good job of putting both Ray's comments in perspective as well as the general landscape of the web. I wanted to make a few comments, because I don't know that I was as clear as I could have been in my previous post.

From a pure RIA standpoint, I really like Microsoft's strategy.From a pure RIA standpoint, I really like Microsoft's strategy. It has most of the things that I like about RIAs - central server, very device centric, and of course a rich, connected experience. Taken in a vacuum, the strategy is great. My main problem is that the strategy seems to be very much "old Microsoft". I can understand that their core business model has always been "become everyone's entry point" whether that was to the computer, to the internet, or productivity. With Ray, I was hoping they would focus on their strengths, become more open, and allow other developers to tie into their services. Under the old Microsoft that would be unheard-of, and it seems like this will be par for the course.

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Lock-in is a dangerous thing because it stifles innovation. There is something to be said for going "all Microsoft" and having one point of contact for support as well as a common environment for which to develop in, but we've seen a lot of fragmentation in the world. With the various types of phones, other devices (Sony's PSP, Nintendo's DS) and the rise of Mac OX, Microsoft will not be able to gain traction for their idea if it doesn't work for these platforms. Google on the other hand, by using the web and not trying to divide it into company-specific zones has painted with a very broad brush. I don't agree with many of their Ajax implementations, but they do run within most browsers, and you don't need Google-only hardware to access them. Of course Google wants to create a platform, but they want that platform to reach as many people as possible. Microsoft wants people to buy everything Microsoft and THEN use their platform. The Google model seems much more plausible.

With Web 2.0 we've seen the good that can come when individual minds are allowed to flourish. There has been so much innovation recently, and so many good ideas that it feels a little overwhelming. I think the "platform model" will do quite well with that kind of innovation, which is why I like companies like Adobe so much. Adobe does a great job of empowering users to create world class experiences. Their goals are to make sure their users can create experiences that will run everywhere, and the Flash Player does just that. It is that ability to run everywhere that makes Flash such a good solution, and if you were to take Flash and build things on top of Google's platform, you would have a very, very good business model - one that transcends the lock in required by Microsoft. Scoble said that he'd seen Second Life tried in Ajax and it wasn't pretty, but what about Flash Robert? It won't be as good as the PC version, but if you want to pop in to Second Life while you're on your PSP in a park, wouldn't Flash be a good alternative?

Microsoft will always be looking out for Microsoft's best interest, and I know that. But I don't believe their business model can succeed in a world as open as the one we have now. It would be better for all of us if they focused on Windows Live and their experience hub, but made sure it worked within the web using technology and standards that developers and users are familiar with. It's unfortunate that Google's advertising model means it wants to reach as many users as possible, regardless of how they get on the web, while Microsoft's model requires everyone to use Microsoft technologies to work within a Microsoft internet. Google's is much more welcoming, and I think that counts for something today.

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