Google, Microsoft and Adobe - The battle for the new operating system

Google, Microsoft and Adobe - The battle for the new operating system

Summary: The operating system is becoming irrelevant as Rich Internet Applications become more popular and companies work to deliver their solutions across a variety of platforms. Three companies which once had little in common now find themselves shaping the future of application development.


adobe_logo_lrg.jpgThree years ago mentioning those three companies in the same sentence would seem odd. Even today it may seem premature to assume that the worlds largest software company, a search company (although they're more media company now), and a company best known for design software to be involved in the next generation of the web, but that's where we are. And these three companies are fighting for not only your computer, but your mobile phone and your living room as well.

microsoft-logo.jpgMicrosoft is successful precisely because they have been able to leverage their operating system dominance into other markets. Now the brains in Redmond are in what to them must seem like bizzaro world. Software, where the margins are thick and major competitors thin, has suddenly been turned on its head. Software as a service is the new buzzword and companies with no background in software are releasing applications delivered over the web. All are aimed to compete with the core offerings from Microsoft. Microsoft is in a difficult position. Vista is publicly derided as a disaster, and they risk getting away from what pays the bills if they delve too far into the new software model. But they're doing an admirable job. WPF/E, or Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere is positioned to play for dominance in the RIA market. They're making sure that developers who build applications on WPF can deploy those applications almost anywhere, on any device or OS. Similarly, the Flash Player has rebranded itself since the dark days of skip intro buttons and has become a full fledged development environment with players that will be put on everything from PlayStation Portables to regular desktop computers. Building an RIA and being able to deploy that RIA on a PSP is a compelling notion. Imagine being able to "link" your PSP to your XBox360 and your computer. It opens up the living room in exciting ways.

google_logo.jpgThrough all of this I think Google has the most to gain, and is the farthest behind, from a rethinking of the operating system. They have been busily buying companies and building web applications that could change the way we all do business. If businesses are creating all of their documents with Google software and storing those documents on Google's servers, then it gives the search company the kind of leverage that Microsoft enjoyed in the 90s. It also means a lot of people possibly clicking on ads or paying a service fee. Google has so far relied on straight web applications - delivered in a browser and functional regardless of the operating system - but they lack the richness that makes desktop applications so user friendly. Their structure allows them to move more quickly than other companies, but up to this point they have eschewed the Rich Internet Application in favor of a more lightweight version which is high on functionality but lower in experience.

In the end, the user experience is going to win out. The starting point in this game is already that your applications will run anywhere. While reading that is probably disconcerting for those who know and love Microsoft, their WPF/E shows that they realize they need to be everywhere. Because of that, users are going to be drawn not just to applications that "just work" but to those that "just work" and also are pleasant to use. Flash and Windows Presentation Foundation are going to provide this kind of richness, and as of right now, Google simply isn't embracing that kind of richness. They may shift strategies as Rich Internet Applications become more mainstream, but Microsoft and Adobe have a head start. That head start is going to be a significant competitive advantage going forward.

Topic: Apps

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  • Google's New Empire

    As we discuss in <a href="">Geek Wednesday at Daily Revolution</a>, there's a power shift afoot, and it's all centered around the competing new products being offered.
  • Am I missing something -- what *about* Adobe?

    I don't really see anything in this piece about Adobe, other than
    by implication. But there should be, because MacroDobe has a
    lot to lose and a long history of failing to execute or exploit

    Acrobat is everywhere; yet any honest usability analysis would
    conculde that Acrobat is a dismal failure at what it's most often
    used for, serving content over the web.

    Flash is everywhere; yet it has really failed to advance much
    since about 2001, when we were told that it would be an
    application platform.

    Coldfusion and JRun are still buggy and crash-happy as hell and
    niche products to boot. Dreamweaver gets buggier and crashier
    with every version. Fireworks gets more and more arcane and
    difficult to use.

    Photoshop is a joke, made crueler by the fact that legions of
    graphic artists take it so seriously. I want to run screaming home
    to GIMP [remember when everyone said "GIMP is too hard, use
    Photoshop"] every time I have to use it.

    What Adobe has got is market share and no competition. None.
    Zero. Macromedia provided an illusion of competition while
    selling a product line just enough skewed from Adobe's that
    every serious graphic shop had to own both. That's going to hurt
    their bottom line, moving forward, unless they bump pricing and
    tighten the upgrade policies.

    Meanwhile, if this is "about" who gets to really leverage web 2.0,
    I just don't see Adobe having the grit or cleverness to pull it off.
    Microsoft will use their technology until they've baked their own;
    Google will stick with AJAX and leverage their bleeding-edge
    karma with developers to make the open-source and semi-
    open-source browsers better and better for AJAX. (Which helps
    MS, too, BTW.)

    Adobe, unless they can seriously reform their ways, are going to
    ghettoize themselves into production. All the really important
    intellectual capital (PDF, SWF, JRun) is either OS or open
    standards. Their only hope is to get off their asses and make
    good software for the first time in years.
    • ... and how could I forget Contribute?

      What a piece of junk. Up to version 3, and it's still a poorly-
      thought-out, massively overpriced and buggy hunk of bloatware
      that utterly fails in its stated mission. If what they've done with
      Contribute in three versions is indicative of their capabilities, I am
      not hopeful for their future.
    • Past Mistakes

      I think saying that Flash has failed to advance discounts the fact that a lot of big firms are using it to deliver multimedia and more and more mobile companies are installing Flash on their phones. It still has a ways to go as a development platform, but it's in all the right places (Windows, Macs, Linux, Mobile, Devices) and that creates a pretty compelling technology to build applications for. They've made mistakes, but I think they're moving in the right direction. Thanks for reading!
  • Am I missing something -- what *about* IBM and Novell

    Why should they be written off.
    Are either not capable of producing an OS that would be of interest to computer users?
    • Doubtful

      I like both companies, but I don't think either company will ever be a big player here. I'd be curious to hear what you think about them and why you think they can. Thanks!
    • IBM? Not a chance ...

      IMO they had their chance with OS/2 and blew it big time.

      They're content to simply ride on the coattails of whoever owns the desktop at this point.

  • Weird article

    How old is the author? He looks like he just earned his firemaking badge. Do they give out firemaking badges at Wharton?
  • What about disruptive inventions?

    Hi Friends,

    Don?t forget that small companies are also in the race. At pioneer-soft, we invented a clever technology for the RIA. The solution is quite simple (and wondering why smart people trouble understanding it)

    Brief Summary: To build great Ajax GUI applications one needs great reusable Ajax GUI Classes (a Class Library or GUI-API) that are more flexible and easy to use than desktop GUI Classes, for example, Java/Swing or Windows/VC++.

    All one needs is to invent a way to build such reusable GUI Classes. We have provided overwhelming evidence to prove: we have accomplished that. Only problem we have left is convincing few smart people. Biggest problem now for us is to let world know that we exist.