Google v. Microsoft: real competiton at last

Written by John Dodge, Contributor

"Competition is a beautiful thing," writes my co-blogger Dana Blankenhorn in his last post. But the axiom is his final  line in a meaty post about how computing if that's still the right term is being re-invented.

When it comes to competition between Microsoft and Google, it's worthy of my first line because before I read Dana's post, it was exactly what I was thinking. Google is forcing Microsoft for the first time since the onset of the Windows monopoly to be substantially more innovative. Google looks like a real deal --deep-pocketed and determined. Thank God! At last!

The history of comers going against Microsoft is not pretty. Apple enjoyed great success in largely in non-core Microsoft markets and highly anticipated challenges 10-15 years ago from IBM and Netscape fizzled.

The absence of competition for Microsoft has meant laboring under successive versions of Microsoft Windows which is slow, inefficient and often unreliable. Microsoft's excuse for these shortcomings that Windows could run everything under the sun never held water. If something better and it's free comes along, I'll grab it and so will everyone else.

Now, relief is in sight that could come from either Microsoft or Google. Let's start with the news.

Microsoft following in Google's footsteps said Monday that a free version of Office 2010 will be available online next year. I assume the announcement was buried in the keynotes at the the 2009 Microsoft Worldwide Partners in New Orleans this week. Sorry, I can't watch three hours and nineteen minutes of Microsoft keynotes, but you can. Scroll through about three quarters of the way to get Ballmer's keynote because he's always worth watching (sorry, keynote video embedding was not available). "

"You've only seen the tip of the twenty ten (2010) Office iceberg," Ballmer shouted and then in the follow-up Q&A planted fear, uncertainty and doubt about Google's Chrome OS. "Who knows what this thing is? It won't be here for a year and half and they already announced an operating system (Android). But the last time I checked you don't need two client operating systems. I don't really know what's up at Google."

I love the rhetoric and fully expect a steady stream of invective from Schmidt, Brin, Page and company.

I am more familiar with Windows 7, the release candidate of which I have been running on a netbook for two months. It's run reliably and its ability to easily toggle between web pages thanks to IE8 is a real time saver. It's a better Windows, but quite honestly, it has a lot of applets and things I will never use. In hindsight, past Windows upgrades have been underwhelming.

I'll need a year to bang on Windows 7 and load it up with applications before I pass final judgment. You just don't do that much on a first generation netbook, but that it even runs on a netbook is a good sign.

Then there's Bing (or as Ballmer screams in his keynote, BING BING BING BING BING) versus the Google search engine. Bing has garnered good reviews and Dana in his post offers a interesting analysis on the differences with Google. Also read Hiawatha Bray's head-on comparison in the Boston Globe.

The competitive landscape for PC users has not been this rich in 25 years since IBM, Microsoft and Digital Research duked it out for operating system supremacy. Competition works!

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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