Why Microsoft can't best Google

Why Microsoft can't best Google

Summary: Microsoft's focus on desktop capability is the crux of why it can't possibly succeed against Google -- it's focusing on yesterday's market.

TOPICS: Google

Most of the analysis of Google's announcements this week of its upgraded desktop tool and its pilot instant-messaging client has seen it in terms of Google encroaching on Microsoft's turf.

That's looking at it from the wrong perspective. Google's turf is the Internet. It's not interested in devices that don't connect to it — Microsoft is welcome to that market. It simply wants to extend its reach to any device that does go online.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's focus on desktop capability is the crux of why it can't possibly succeed against Google (or any future Google equivalent). It's focusing on yesterday's market. Microsoft's dominance of the desktop is as relevant to the future of computing as Union Pacific's dominance of the railroads was to the future of transportation in the twentieth century.

Here's a sampling of reasons why Microsoft is history:

  • Microsoft wants everyone to have a rich desktop experience, Google wants everyone to have a rich Internet experience.
  • Microsoft's business model depends on everyone upgrading their computing environment every two to three years. Google's depends on everyone exploring what's new in their computing environment every day.
  • Microsoft looks at the world from a perspective of desktop+Internet. Google looks at the world from a perspective of Internet+any device.
  • Microsoft wants computers to help individuals do more unaided. Google wants computers to help individuals do more in collaboration. In the Internet age, who wants to work alone any more, when all the unexplored opportunity is in collaborative endeavor?
  • In a few year's time, who's going to still be working at a desk anyway?

Topic: Google

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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  • Well said

    Never understimate Microsoft, but...
    I think the same too: Google's business model is the future, not Microsoft's.
    This post reminds me of Joel Spolsky's "How Microsoft Lost the API War"
  • I guess you have not worked in corp america in awhile

    Most people will still work in the office in a cubical, on a pc that is locked down so tight it might as well be a terminal. Only sales and exec. will be out of the office a lot. But hey it's your dream. MS will beat Google just because MS can bundle anything and give it away for a decade and still have lots of money left. The only way Google is going to beat MS if MS loses a large percentage of the desktopo market.
    • Proof of Microsoft's status quo?

      Microsoft might have caught "cubical" instead of "cubicle" (and a few more things) because they've got a rich desktop environment with a very deep dictionary. All you have to do is download updates every so often. With an Internet/Web -- not the same thing -- although most people don't know so), the dictionary is changed such you can make use of their changes immediately.

      I'm not slamming Microsoft. They've done well. They've made a lot of money for me. But they cannot be all things to all people. The problem is ... they don't "know" this. Google has something on the order of 150'000+ servers crawling & organizing what it finds. If a piece of hardware fails, they don't remove the machine. It's a matter of sliding one in where growth has been made available. I'm certain Microsoft has a lot of server horsepower, but I don't think it's as intermingled. Google is demonstrating "the whole is better than the sum of the parts".

      What was asserted it quite correct. Microsoft is trying to be the glue which starts with a CD or diskette, all the way up to the Internet, where they're trying make themselves equal to others (just not Google).

      Microsoft is fighting on two fronts: Windows version ? vs. Linux. They're fighting Google et alli vs. on the Internet/Web front. There isn't a one-size-fits-all situation. Besides, Microsoft is feeling their age. They aren't used to writing all of their own code and when they are forced to, they aren't always the greatest coders. Microsoft has typically bought desktop applications: FrontPage, Visual SourceSafe [sic], Visio (from Shapeware). They're pushing development to cheaper sites. Personally, I don't have any problems with where they are putting the code together. I do have problems with code I see which reflects one of my quotes [1], "In this field, you don't have to be good, just good enough".

      In summary, I have to agree with the article. It should be striking right between the eyes if anyone can't see merit in what is being said. And even if it's wrong -- and not completely wrong, as there have to be *some* merits, it's something to learn from. Microsoft has narrowly escaped problems in the past. But they aren't assuring they will always be able to do so. They've said something to the effect they will eventually be dethroned. That's what what they're afraid of: no longer setting the standards and defining the cutting edge. It was the same fear IBM had when Microsoft didn't renew their contract with IBM and there was OS/2 and Windows, with software which would run on both.
      Mihi Nomen Est
  • Selling software.

    Google's product is search.

    Search easily becomes, is becoming, generic, a commodity product.

    Once Google loses its search cachet, it becomes only the source of free software in crowded categories.
    If your article had observed that Google was hanging on by a thread, I'd think it exaggerated, but not unreasonable.

    Microsoft's product is software.

    I guess you missed it:
    A few years ago Bill Gates noticed that the internet was becoming significant, and turned Microsoft toward the new opportunities opening.

    There was some competition around the browser, most people's main access to the internet. Microsoft became predominant, and continues predominant. The tactics used were questionable, had negative repercussions, but they did work.

    Other devices connecting to the internet, aside from the desktop?
    Why yes, Microsoft has noticed those, produced some software for them. Seem to have had some success.

    Just to let you know. A word to the wise...
    Anton Philidor
  • A Real eye opener analysis from the "Software as Services" blog

    Sounds like wishful thinking. That Google stock will be worth as much as your pets.com stock in about 6 years.
    • I agree!

      I already advised people dump Google stock at appropriate time after testing MSN search engines. Rather my question is Google will be next Netscape? Technology what Google is doing is rather easy to build. Recently, MSN proved this with new engines. It also opens other search engines that can easily match the relevency factor that of Google quite easily.
  • theoretical analysis

    you have made a lot of theoretical points (looks good on paper). Looking good on paper will only take you so far. When its crunch time, one has to deliver. Time will tell who can deliver when its crunch time.
  • Where has everybody been?

    I admit Google is good in the search field.And they has came out with gmail,a desktop program and now a IM.The new IM is only good if you have a Gmail account.Which must be in beta like it's IM.Because it's still by invitation only.And there's many out there.Everybody says it's in beat and will get better.Will be be in beta limbo like the gmail?Since now Aol gives a bigger email box and has a good IM also.
  • Comparing apples to icebergs

    Your observations are interesting, but not relevant. Microsoft and Google are not competitors. In certain niche areas, maybe, but in their core business activities (read: profit centers), they aren't gaining where the other loses. We are not even close to a situation where one is a Microsoft customer vs. a Google customer (and IMO, we'll never get there).

    As I've posted in other threads, I don't see the point of Google competing with Microsoft in any of Microsoft's core areas. Google has already generated billions of dollars in capital without targeting Microsoft. I can't see the rationale behind the next step for Google going after Office or the OS.

    Google's main competitor is Yahoo. Others include AltaVista and Ask Jeeves. MSN is on the list, but down a ways. Microsoft's competitors are Apple, Novell (other Linux distrubutiors like Red Hat), IBM (to a lesser extent), and many specific application builders (Sun for Star/Open Office, Mozilla for the browser, etc.)

    You also have to look at the different industries. Google delivers advertisements. Microsoft specializes in desktop and server computing. Microsoft's industry is far more mature than Googles (an example of this is that most of Microsofts competitors are also their partners). Can you fathom (at this point) a Google-Yahoo joint venture?
    Real World
  • What planet are you living on?

    First off, Microsoft's not going anywhere. Who's talking about MS beating Google? Everyone. Is Google going to start building servers and network authentication? Maybe. Are they going to put MS out of business? Chances are no.

    And what's up with your comment:

    "That's looking at it from the wrong perspective. Google's turf is the Internet. It's not interested in devices that don't connect to it ? Microsoft is welcome to that market."

    What devices don't connect to the internet nowadays? Phones, watches, computers anywhere at anytime. Name one device that MS is looking at that doesn't connect to the net? I mean, crap, if you buy a Jaguar, you can connect it to your PDA or cell phone via bluetooth and then connect your *car* to the internet. If you have time, you can build a similar setup into *any* car.

    Welcome to the 21st century, man.
    Hi, I'm technology. Have we met?
  • + open standards

    >> and don't forget the fact that millions of users are absolutely sick and tired of Microsoft's efforts to lock them into its proprietary formats.
    • Most users don't care!

      Much as the open source community hates to admit it, most users don't know and don't care about the underlying standards that their applications are built on, only whether their output is readable by someone else and until an open source standard is so overwhelmingly accepted than the MS standard for personal and business data interchange, any package that supports the open standard will also have to support the MS standard that therefore the number of people who care are minimal.
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