Is it time for Microsoft to relinquish the Evil Empire crown to Google?

Is it time for Microsoft to relinquish the Evil Empire crown to Google?

Summary: Microsoft is taking its anti-Google campaign a step further with newpaper ads aimed at highlighting controversial changes in Google's privacy policy.

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There's more than one way to grow market share, as the Softies know. Best products or first-to-market products don't always win. Sometimes, a product can come to dominate largely because of the missteps of a competitor.

Not so long ago, Microsoft's policy was to sit back and wait for users to grow disenchanted with the competition and ultimately (hopefully) gravitate toward the Microsoft alternative. (Exhibit A: Xbox vs. Sony PlayStation.) But these days, Microsoft isn't leaving those defections up to chance. Instead, company officials have been increasingly willing to go public -- via Twitter, Facebook, blog posts and ads -- to fight back against the competition.

Google is one of Microsoft's favorite punching bags right now, for many understandable reasons. This week, Microsoft took its Google-compete campaign a step further by taking out ads in three major national newspapers to help continue to fuel the anti-Google furor over privacy. (I'm not sure the readers of print newspapers (even big ones) are really the folks Microsoft has to convince here, but that's just an aside.)

Microsoft doesn't really need to stoke the fires much here. Even the U.S. Congress is demanding Google provide answers about its no-opt-out privacy policy taking effect March 1. And Google has been forced to explain and re-explain it (and probably before it's over, re-explain it again).

But what Redmond is doing this time around is very non-Microsoft-like: They're actively trying to capitalize on its competitor's problems in a public way -- and to boost the market share of their own alternatives -- Hotmail, Bing, Office 365 and Internet Explorer -- as a side benefit.

I like seeing Microsoft get more publicly aggressive. I can't tell you how frustrating it's been as someone reporting on Microsoft to call company officials for comment on Google's or Apple's or Salesforce's or Oracle's claims about Microsoft's products or strategies and to be told "no comment" -- even when it was obvious the competitors weren't telling the truth, the whole truth or even the partial truth.

That said, when I first heard about it, Microsoft's newest anti-Google campaign struck me as the pot calling the kettle black. Sure, Microsoft can rail about Google tailoring users' search results based on information it collects about them, but isn't Microsoft collecting the same kind of information about its users, in the name of providing more personalized, customized user experiences for users (and, of course, advertisers)?  Hey, Microsoft didn't earn the "Evil Empire" nickname for its selfless customer love...

Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice Presient of Corporate Communications for Microsoft, told me there are differences.

"There is a difference between policy and practice. We don't read customers mail. We don't read customer documents. We don't triangulate youtube views and searches. We don’t use the content of your Hotmail to target ads in Bing," Shaw said.

Maybe it's time for the passing of the Evil Empire crown to a new king? All hail the G-mail Man?

Update: Here's Google's response to points it says Microsoft makes in its new privacy ad campaign.

Topics: Microsoft, Browser, Collaboration, Google, Hardware, Mobility

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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177 comments
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  • MS doesn't hold the evil empire crown so it isn't theirs to give away

    That honor belongs to Apple. From what I can tell, they intend to hold on to it very tightly.
    toddybottom_z
    • RE: Is it time for Microsoft to relinquish the Evil Empire crown to Google?

      @toddybottom_z
      you nailed it!
      preferred user
      • Actually...me thinks they ALL have a share of it.

        @preferred user
        IT_Fella
      • Agreed.. honor is all Apple's

        Because Apple products are produced by people under "slave" like conditions (Foxconn).<br><br>MS taxes you for software... Apple bullies you with a greater TAX and insane contracts where you give up 30% of your profit to them. MS never was so Evil. And yet at the same time it pays those who create their products pennies and let them work under inhumane conditions. <br><br>Having made so much money, you would think, they would consider changing some of this. And yet they don't. Earn 10 dollars less (just a random number) on each product will not change the bottom line significantly, though it would allow those people to have better working conditions.<br><br>It also took all those jobs for the average American away from US soil, and doesn't bring them back, even though the US desperately needs it. They can't bring them back, because here regulations would not allow such poor treatment of any employee.<br><br>Yes it is capitalism at its greatest. Though, morally, its wrong in the most fundamental way. It denigrates humanity as whole. <br><br>For this reason alone I will never promote or purchase another Apple product.<br><br>Even if Apple does correct their ways, the fact that they let it go on for so long with so many suicides associated with it. I will never bring my self to be part of it, by purchasing an Apple product.<br><br>Back on point, IE's market share will only decline. As will Win OS across multiple devices. The trend wont change any time soon. Search wise, MS has too much to do to be able to compete effectively. Apple will most likely be the next Google competitor before MS has a chance at anything. And it will be left as the smallest player in a field that it dominated for so long.

        MS's current plan to attach Google is foolish. The real Gorilla is Apple. Though I would venture to guess, that MS wont care, as they have a cut of that pie, some time ago.
        Uralbas
      • Microsoft is desperate, and losing the battle to Apple and Android.

        @Reply to Uralbas ... If you look at corporate America, Apple isn't any different than legal firms, insurance companies, oil companies, etc. What Apple is doing overseas is in a different world, with a different cost of living. For now, paying $17 a day most likely is paradise compared to them not being there at all. If the cost of living changes, they probably will increase the wages. It's not the USA. Medical drugs cost $65 here and $2.00 in Canada. They have dormitories and clinics for health care, better than a lot in the US have. Even Malaysia has universal health care where a CAT Scan only costs $5 and major surgery with chemotherapy is $40 without the patient having any insurance. The USA is all about abuse and greed and MS is always at the bottom of the barrel.<br><br>As far as Apple customers, they don't complain and are happy with their purchases. The only OS on par with Apple is also a Unix derivative called Linux. Microsoft has nothing to do with Linux, (except for what it steals) and it's security record proves it. People go to Apple because they've had it with Windows failures and infections. MS smartphones have been almost completely shunned by the public. Microsoft has a 5% stake in Apple Computer.
        Joe.Smetona
      • RE: Is it time for Microsoft to relinquish the Evil Empire crown to Google?

        @Uralbas - I agree completely with what Joe.Smetona wrote. With the exception that Microsoft has no stake in Apple at all. They sold their 150 million in stock and had a good pay day. Those days are now over.
        The Danger is Microsoft
      • The hypocrisy of singling out Apple regarding supplier employment condition

        "...Because Apple products are produced by people under "slave" like conditions (Foxconn). ..."
        Oh, the myopic hypocrisy in statements like this, cavalierly made by Windows PC buyers who have never given a thought to how what they buy was made. If you were to examine the conditions under which Windows PCs were made, you would likely find far, far worse working conditions.
        Quidproquorum
    • So True

      @toddybottom_z

      [b]+1[/b]
      rhonin
      • RE: Is it time for Microsoft to relinquish the Evil Empire crown to Google?

        @rhonin
        And one more +1. I have not considered Microsoft to be a bad boy for many years. On the other hand there is absolutly no Google tool bar, Google + Etc on any of our computers, I just do not trust them as there seems to be lots of greed there, just like Apple.
        anonymous
      • RE: Is it time for Microsoft to relinquish the Evil Empire crown to Google?

        @rhonin - Sorry. Like another poster wrote about how he will never buy Apple because of his faulty view of what they have done, Microsoft will never be absolved of their sins. I seriously can't wait for the day that Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer weep for their company that once was so evil it almost ruled the world buy ended up in the slag heap. Never forget!
        The Danger is Microsoft
    • New employee motivation

      @toddybottom_z

      Since Google dropped the "do no evil" policy, all employees have to participate in a session every morning in which they rub the backs of their hands and cackle insanely.
      jorwell
    • the JUDGE on Msft Evilness....

      @toddybottom_z

      Judge Jackson during the U.S vs Msft trial:
      " Microsoft executives had "proved, time and time again, to be inaccurate, misleading, evasive, and transparently false. ... Microsoft is a company with an institutional disdain for both the truth and for rules of law that lesser entities must respect. It is also a company whose senior management is not averse to offering specious testimony to support spurious defenses to claims of its wrongdoing."


      Businessweek on the same trial "Early rounds of his (Gates) deposition show him offering obfuscatory answers and saying 'I don't recall' so many times that even the presiding judge had to chuckle. Worse, many of the technology chief's denials and pleas of ignorance have been directly refuted by prosecutors with snippets of E-mail Gates both sent and received."

      I've been called Apple Fanboy for saying LESS...

      :)
      Davewrite
      • RE: Is it time for Microsoft to relinquish the Evil Empire crown to Google?

        @Davewrite
        Thanks for the breaking news, a la 1998?
        QAonCall
      • RE: Is it time for Microsoft to relinquish the Evil Empire crown to Google?

        @QAonCall
        What have they done back then that they aren't doing today? The majority of the practices they got in trouble for continue today. Ironically, it's their poor performance (relative to the other major tech companies) that has prevented the DoJ from doing something about it.
        anono
      • @ QAonCall

        @QAonCall<br><br>oh... if you want newer... there's also the internet Explorer cases in Europe from a few years ago etc. which msft lost as well. Point is Msft has been convicted of crimes and Apple hasn't even come close to Msft's troubles with the law and yet we have Toddy's "That honor belongs to Apple. From what I can tell, they intend to hold on to it very tightly."<br><br>as for Apple's 'evilness' that it's accused of today, Apple evil for Foxconn, Msft also uses Foxconn, Apple evil to charge developers 30%, Msft also charges 30% for wp7 apps, Apple sues android OEMs is evil, msft ALSO sues android oems and gets money!.. etc... <br><br>so msft has a bigger HISTORY of evil, losing numerous court cases around the world, has judges like the above writing about it's 'evilness' and continues to match apple point for point like Foxconn (except it doesn't seem - I could be wrong - to do half the auditing or offer free classes to Foxconn workers in English, business etc that Apple does) so how does Apple hold the 'Crown' of evilness?
        Davewrite
      • They sure did -close to 20 years ago.

        @Davewrite

        But then the moment people start to question whether Apple should hold the crown, try and make actions from 20 years ago worse then Apple's current actions.

        Sure you failed, but it wasn't for lack of trying!
        William Farrel
      • RE: Is it time for Microsoft to relinquish the Evil Empire crown to Google?

        @Davewrite

        Might want to check out the admonishments Jackson received, he acted more like a prosecutor than a judge, and was called out for it and basically taken off the case.

        He's a nut, in short.
        rtk
      • RE: Is it time for Microsoft to relinquish the Evil Empire crown to Google?

        @Davewrite

        and yet Jackson seemed to love his time in sun, so much so he was removed from the case. not somthing done often.
        evilcart
      • @Farrel how did I fail? lol

        @Davewrite

        quote examples of apple's evilness equal to the billions Msft had to pay in fines.

        also about the past, why not? lots of people (plenty here in zdnet posting) say B.Gates is a saint (charity etc) vs Jobs conveniently ignoring HOW he got 10 times the money as s.Jobs (although in the last few years Apple makes more money than Msft).

        as for RECENT events look at my post to QAonCall about the actions over which Apple is tarred as evil e.g Foxconn, Msft ALSO users Foxconn, Apple sues Android OEMs is evil, Msft ALSO sues Android OEMs etc etc.
        Davewrite
      • @RTK attacks on Judge Jackson was by Msft's Super highly paid Lawyers

        @Davewrite

        Msft used their billions to discredit Judge jackson. Regardless of what the FUD you don't get to be the judge of one of the biggest business case in U.S history by being a dumbo.

        also Msft still had to pay hundreds of millions in Fines and they are still paying.. recently Wisconsin schools bought hundreds of iPads with money got from Msft settlement. lol.
        Davewrite