Can Microsoft Save Us From Google World Domination?
Maybe it's got something to do with rampant
stories about identity theft
, or maybe it's a result (or the cause) of the
return of the horror movie to cultural prominence in recent years, or maybe
it's some sort of unfortunate lingering after-effect of the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks...or maybe we just like to be freaked out. But if any word describes
how we tend to react to things in the United States of late, it's "panic."
Just look at the press this week. No less of an opinion influencer than BusinessWeek
-- perhaps this country's finest weekly news magazine, period (given that The
Economist is British) -- devoted its cover story to the question of whether
Google is too powerful. BW did an excellent job (and, no, we haven't
applied for jobs there -- we just feel this way) of canvassing the general freak-out
about Google that's currently taking place in boardrooms. It's a dread that's
spanning the technology, publishing, advertising and entertainment industries
-- among others.
The fear is that that Google -- with its mysterious algorithms, omnipresent
search engine and hunger to catalog every datum coughed up by humankind -- will
eventually dominate world commerce. It might even pose a threat to America's
national defense. Already, apparently, Google
has an "image problem" that's hindering its ability to cut deals
and perhaps encouraging huge lawsuits.
We say "already" because Google isn't even quite a decade old. It
took IBM decades to become the technology industry's most feared (and often
hated) entity; it took Microsoft years. But now, in the age of panic, lots of
observers are worried that Google is an unstoppable monster that must be curbed
before it eats the whole economy. Why, just this week, we learned that Google
has started talking about buying
online ad broker DoubleClick, a company that seemed last week to be almost
promised to Microsoft as a key part of Redmond's quixotic effort to catch
Google in the search game.
Now Microsoft, still
the devil in many observers' eyes, is in the unfamiliar position of being
world's only potential savior from some other rampant corporate entity.
By buying DoubleClick and Yahoo! (as we say
hello to that old rumor again), Microsoft might be able to at least put
a dent in Google's Internet hegemony. But if the acquisition doesn't happen,
Redmond will doom us mere mortals forever to live in Google's world of unrelenting
efficiency and accessibility of information. The horror.
All of this, of course, is ridiculous. First of all, many of us (as BW
points out) don't want to be saved from Google and the services it provides.
Those services have generally made us more productive and enhanced our computing
experiences and lives. But it's also ridiculous because Microsoft isn't a search
company (outside of enterprise search, maybe, which is a bit of a different
game) and because Google is bound to miss something (we don't know what yet,
Apple missed licensing its operating system. IBM missed client-server computing.
Microsoft missed the Internet, tried to make up for it by crushing Netscape,
and then got blindsided by Google and search. As Google grows -- and its employee
count is currently about 12,000 -- and becomes more influential, its leaders
will have to focus more on the company's stock price and corporate standing
than on innovation and market trends. And somebody will sneak up behind it,
develop some sort of new model and hit Google where it hurts. In other words,
innovation and the free market will take care of themselves -- and of us. No
need to panic.
How worried are you about Google taking over the world? What do you think of
Microsoft's efforts to catch Google? We've had some great comments on this already.
Friday is going to be reader e-mail day at RCPU, so hit me this week with your
thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Lee Pender on 04/03/2007 at 1:20 PM