The New York Times had an interesting piece in the paper over the weekend, which talked about an upcoming battle between Microsoft and Google. The two companies are already somewhat of bitter rivals, but the battle is about to heat up even more, if we are to believe the NY Times, who foresee an epic battle between new and old.
Google, which began as a search engine, has quickly expanded into other areas- most notably advertising and most recently applications. Begun in the 1990’s as a Stanford University project, Google became a full-fledged incorporated business in 1998. Even as they approach their 10th anniversary, Google are still the new guys on the block, especially compared to Microsoft, which was founded in the late 1970’s at the very beginning of the computer age.
Google thus represents “new”, while Microsoft represents “old”. Both companies have benefits to their respective oldness and newness, as well as very different approaches to conducting business.
Google approaches their business through cloud computing, which is essentially the utilization of remote servers in faraway dater centers, which are accessible anywhere through the web by an array of wired and wireless devices. Microsoft desperately seeks a future in the Web as well, but still have a very desktop PC software centric focus. Both companies are powerful and successful in their own rights, and both want to dominate computers, applications, the web, and now, even mobile phones.
Google, according to CEO Eric Schmidt, seeks to bring much of the traditional desktop software to the web. This way, the work you do is accessible anywhere, anytime, and it can even be shared with other people. In the Google view, keeping work on a lone computer is like locking it away, and renders one less effective and efficient. Afterall, if you want access your text document from where else, you’ll need to either put it on a disc, or e-mail it to yourself as a file attachment.
Launching the First Attack:
Working with this philosophy, Google has introduced a number of tools over the past year or two that brings a lot of the functionality we’re familiar with in Microsoft Office products, to the web. Google now has spreadsheets, text documents, charts, and presentations – all of which are accessible 24/7 online from any computer through Google Docs.
Many believe that this was a direct attack on Microsoft, but you’ll never get a Googler to admit it. As for Microsoft’s view on it, they’re most apt to ridicule Google for what they call delusional thinking. If Google’s move into applications does scare them even just a little bit, Microsoft will never admit it.
Setting the Stage for War:
Microsoft makes their living through traditional software installed on personal computers, so it’s understandable that they might not take too kindly to Google’s maneuvers. Speaking of Google’s idea of bringing 90% of computing tasks to the web-based cloud, Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s business division, told the NY Times that basically that ideology is a fantasy, and that it is “totally inaccurate compared with where the market is today and where the market is headed.”
To Raikes, Google’s challenge is an attack on Microsoft that is both misguided and arrogant. “The focus is on competitive self-interest; it’s on trying to undermine Microsoft, rather than what customers want to do,” said Raikes. In other words, he believes that Google is launching an attack for the sake of sabotaging Microsoft, rather than addressing the needs of consumers and what they actually want.
Another factor contributing to the competitive nature between the two companies is their workforce, and the ability to recruit the best and the brightest. Google attracts just as many, if not more, highly qualified applicants for their jobs. Microsoft was once the place to work for in the tech biz, and now Google is dipping into the same applicant pool, fighting over the same bright minds.
Then there’s the “cool” factor. Microsoft just doesn’t have the same level of coolness that they once did. Google, however, is in the cool kids club. Apple, another member of the cool group, pokes fun at Microsoft’s lack of cool in their Mac vs. PC commercials. The fact that Google and Apple are working together on more and more things, that can’t be too pleasing to Microsoft either. I mean, no one likes when the cool kids gang up on you.
Other’s Thoughts on the “War”:
David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School, told the New York Times that it is “unclear at this point whether Google will be able to capitalize on the trends that it’s accelerating,” but that if Google does succeed, “a lot of the value Microsoft provides today is potentially obsolete.”
My Thoughts on the “War”:
I am a part of the new generation – Generation Y, the Millennial Generation, or whatever you want to call us. Suffice to say, I think I speak for many in my age group and younger when I say that I’m more inclined to pick up on the Google way of computing. I hardly use Microsoft Office products anymore, except at work where it is often required. I like the functionality of offerings from Google and Zoho that allow me to write something up from one computer, and access it later from a completely different location. Until such programs came along, my solution was to e-mail myself documents as attachments so I could carry them along with me. But now that’s not even necessary. I’ve even bought a handful of computers over the past few years – none of them have Microsoft Office on it.
Winning over my generation shouldn’t be too hard for Google. The real battle, however, lies in the corporate world which is deeply entrenched in the Microsoft products. If Google can make headway there, then the future doesn’t look so good for Microsoft. Competition breeds excellence, so no matter who comes out of this war on top, at least we as consumers will have better products and services as a result.