Barney's Rubble

Rose-Colored Google Glasses

Can Google -- or some other company -- change the world of computing?

When I think of Google, I think of a darn good search engine. When the lemmings in the press think of Google, they think of a company that has Microsoft on the ropes and is landing blow after vicious blow—like Foreman in the fourth round against Ali.

Just because Google has a cool name (that's both a noun and verb), a huge market cap and a massive (but unsustainable) P/E multiple, it must be poised to take over the world.

This was the same group of writers that fell over Netscape, Java and AOL, each of which was going to send Bill Gates to the poor farm. In the face of each threat, Microsoft was a monolithic, slow-moving, money-grubbing technological dolt. And each of these competitors was ultimately squashed.

One reason Microsoft always wins is that it takes every competitor, no matter how lame, seriously. It's fun to see Redmond react. First, top executives get defensive and hostile and then the programmers get to work. Microsoft is just now getting over the hostile stage, and as we speak developers are coding away on a few potential Google killers.

So what prompted this diatribe? A rash of articles that have Google poised to overthrow Office, just because Google has made some vague pronouncements of what it might do with OpenOffice, an open source suite that pretty much anyone can toy with. OpenOffice has almost no market share, yet the idea of hosting it on Google is suddenly, somehow a major threat.

Microsoft has already responded with its somewhat-less-vague announcement of OfficeLive, a set of Web services for productivity.

Doug Barney Monopolies take a long time to die. It took the entire U.S. federal government to kill off AT&T. Office and Windows may be impossible to kill without a similar legal mandate—something the feds tried and failed. In fact, we're exploring this topic in a future issue—what would cause you to move off of Windows clients and Office? Write me at

In some ways, Google is already the next Microsoft. It dominates a market, leverages it to enter new markets like maps, e-mail and desktop searches, and has a growing list of enemies who spin out conspiracy theories like Rumpelstiltskin with his piles of gold.

Despite all the fawning, Google isn't so much an inventor as it is an imitator who perfects the ideas of others (sound familiar?). Search? Google was far from the first. Web e-mail? Hmmm, wasn't Hotmail out long before Gmail? And an Office suite? Who invented that concept?

And why does Google have to be viewed in relation to Microsoft? Isn't the very nature of innovation the act of doing something completely different? So Google's true success should have nothing to do with existing Microsoft businesses.

Don't get me wrong. Google is a superb company. I want Google to do what the articles say it will do. I want Google, or somebody, to change the world of computing. But do it in a way that is completely its own.

More Information

Google in the media: "Google: The Next Microsoft? Noooo!" ""Is Google the Next Microsoft?"

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Jan 7, 2010 kiramatalishah

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Sun, Dec 11, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Can Google -- or some other company -- change the world of computing?

Let's think about the question. The answer is definitely YES!!!

Google had slowly step into Microsoft territory and starting to win each of the battle against Microsoft. Gmail, Google Talk etc...

What I could observe is that Google is not invading Microsoft; but instead Microsoft is preventing Google from dominating the Market

With Google Earth and Google Map --- her's come MSN Earth

With Open Office --- Microsoft announce Office Live

With Google Search --- We have MSN 2.0

so far, had Microsoft ever won a battle against Google? ehm... Let's justify later.

But definitely, google can handle large amount of data better than other company does. Imagine, when I try to browse on webpages on my Microsoft Smartphone. Google is always the website which return result as fast as you browse it on a desktop pc.

ten years back, when Microsoft first launched Win 95, and now Microsoft launches Windows Live, I could definitely say, if Windows Live and Office Live is FOC.

Then..... we could said, Google could never be the next Microsoft!

Else, Google would probably be the next Microsoft and IBM at the same time.

Heard about Google PC and Google Net? have a look and probably you will know how huge is Google's ambition. :)

Sat, Dec 10, 2005 Marc Read

After reading in the December 2005 article by Doug Barney, I was inspired to write Redmond in response. The article “Rose-Colored Google Glasses” which portrays Google as a dime a dozen web based Internet Company; I feel Doug has all wrong.

Although open office does have next to no market share, it does not mean that the programs are useless. For a small business who cannot afford steep license fees, it would truly be a great alternative. It is also great to repair corrupt office documents. Open Office could very well be a threat to MS Office if Google can implement it correctly.

Doug also claims “Google isn’t so much an innovator as it is an imitator” I have not seen anything that has come out of the Microsoft machine that is truly innovative for 10 years. Using Microsoft and Innovation in the same sentence make me nauseous. On the other hand I feel that Google is doing some really important work in realm of modern computing. For instance, Google as a search engine was the first full text search engine, that is a pretty innovative task on there account. I would categorize this as “an act of doing something different” which is Doug’s definition of innovation. What about Google Earth? Seeing the reaction form Microsoft in response to anything that Google does is very entertaining, and downright pathetic.

Another comment that Doug made “Google’s true success should have nothing to do with existing Microsoft business” I would have to dispute this. Due to Microsoft’s saturation in the computer market, Google has to compete with Microsoft’s existing business, in order to do anything computer related. Isn’t the Google’s search engine in direct competition with If you wanted to make a better web based email product you would also have to compete with hotmail. For that matter any anti-spy ware company in now competing with Microsoft. From my point of view Google is not attempting to try and compete with Microsoft in a client-server environment, rather creating a web based thin client services. This is something Microsoft is not actively pursuing with out the help of Citirx. Let’s not forget that Sabeer Bhatia, who is the inventor of hotmail who was purchased by Microsoft for $400 million dollars, a very innovative part on Microsoft’s behalf.

I cannot think of any thing that Microsoft has done that has not been done before. Microsoft did not invent operating systems; Microsoft did not invent web browsers; Microsoft did not invent Directory Services; Microsoft did not invent SQL servers; Microsoft is just a master for marketing.

Microsoft has the ability to brain wash computer users, systems administrators, and anyone who will listen into believing they are the best and sometimes the only option available. Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft is a very important company in the computer industry, but we should not think they are the only alternative. I believe that competition is good for business and consumers. If Microsoft, Google, Novell, Firefox, Sun, or any distribution of Linux, BSD, or other UNIX-like products can keep creating solutions the only person who is going to win is going to the customer. I would not consider this a bad thing?

Marc Read
Nevada, Iowa

Wed, Dec 7, 2005 Arnab Mitra UK

This was the same group of writers that fell over Netscape, Java and AOL, ................. And each of these competitors was ultimately squashed.
----------- This is rubbish!!! Java (J2EE) has turned out to be the dominant technology for enterprise applications. With companies like IBM, BEA, Oracle etc. leading the charge it has become the technology standard for large scale applications. Microsoft has been reduced to a player merely in the desktop applications segment. Its trying a lot with its .Net technology platfrom and is definitely making some progress. But that again is mostly the Small and Medium Scale Business segment.
So, the fact is that in terms of revenue the biggest threat is IBM, though google has been posing a lot of trouble lately!

Sun, Dec 4, 2005 DB Anonymous

You ask what would make me leave Windows and Office? Simple: As soon as there's an easy-to-use (and install) free Linux alternative that does all the basics well. In fact, that looks like it might be happening soon (probably in the next week or two). I'm not a computer geek and don't "get" all the tech stuff, otherwise it probably would have happened years ago.

I'm sick and tired of being locked against my will into someone else's idea of when and how I need to update my system and software. And charging me for it. And checking my licenses. I still use Win98 at home like tens of millions of other people outside the USA, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let Microsoft force me to pay for an update. That is why I want to change to Open Source. And if according to the techies it's even better - great.

Fri, Dec 2, 2005 Bunty Gill Kharagpur, India

How much did M$ pay you write this trash?

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