Why Google Shouldn't Attack Microsoft - InformationWeek
10:27 AM

Why Google Shouldn't Attack Microsoft

In This Issue:
1. Editor's Note: Why Google Shouldn't Attack Microsoft
2. Today's Top Story
    - Intel Adds Dual-Core Xeons Supported By HP, IBM, And Dell
    - Q&A: AMD's Ruiz Sees 'Phenomenal' Future Ahead
3. Breaking News
    - Firefox Loses Market Share--Again
    - Google Releases Newsreader In Beta
    - EBay To Buy VeriSign Online-Payment Service
    - Mozilla Launches Final Thunderbird 1.5 Beta
    - IBM Drops Patent Fight With SCO
    - Dutch Police Crush Big 'Botnet,' Arrest Trio
    - Stanford's Stanley Takes Darpa's $2 Million
    - Venezuela Government Closes Some U.S. Tech Firms
    - Mobile Security Products On Tap
    - Yahoo Adds Podcast Search
    - Google Plugs Cross-Scripting Security Hole
    - RFID Implementation Challenges Persist
    - A Tale Of Two Cities
4. In Depth: Microsoft
5. Voice Of Authority: Langa Letter
6. White Papers: Spyware
7. Get More Out Of InformationWeek
8. Manage Your Newsletter Subscription

Quote of the day:
"The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him." -- Sun Tzu

1. Editor's Note: Why Google Shouldn't Attack Microsoft

It makes no sense for Google to try to compete with Microsoft on the desktop, and any sign that Google is getting into that business would be evidence that Google has jumped the shark.

As all good couch potatoes know, "jumping the shark" is what happens when a good television show goes bad. The name comes from an episode of the 1970s sitcom Happy Days, where teen idol Fonzie does a water-ski jump over a tank full of sharks, to demonstrate how courageous and cool he was. As if that weren't ridiculous enough, he did it wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket and T-shirt (because nothing says "cool" like a guy wearing swim trunks with a leather jacket).

Like TV shows, software companies can jump the shark. It starts happening when the upstart company attracts cheerleaders that say the upstart is the company that's going to take Microsoft down. Microsoft starts believing the hype and begins to target its massive resources on destroying the upstart. Eventually, the upstart itself believes the hype--and that's the beginning of the end. The software company loses focus on its customers and instead starts focusing on beating Microsoft. Eventually, the company gets fat and bloated, hemorrhages money, loses market share and customers and--in the final stage--top management bails out, often accompanied by the company being acquired. It happened to Borland, Novell, and, most famously, Netscape.

So now Google is acquiring its "Kill Bill" cheerleaders. As reported in this week's InformationWeek, Google cut a deal with Sun to offer Java combined with the Google Toolbar. Before the announcement, there was widespread speculation in the blogosphere that Google might be offering Sun's OpenOffice.org, and the two companies fueled that speculation by saying their deal included joint marketing and development of technologies, including that office package.

One question for those who think Google will offer an office package to compete with Microsoft: Why?

Oh, sure, I know why you want it. You hate Microsoft, or at least you want to see some competition for the big ol' monopolist. But why would Google want to get involved in peddling office suites? It's a tough business, requiring companies to maintain and update large amounts of complex code. Moreover, that code resides on users' desktops, outside of the vendor's control. And getting aggressively into the desktop software business violates one of the secrets to Google's success: The code for its strategic products resides on servers owned and operated by Google, where the company can more easily update and maintain it.

Yes, I know Google offers Google Desktop, a search tool that resides on the user's desktop. But that's the exception; the company's strategic products reside safe and sound on its own servers.

If Google gets into the desktop software business in a big way, it'll be competing with Microsoft at Microsoft's own game. Microsoft has nearly a 15-year head start on Google in offering office suites, and Office is the worldwide standard. Yet, even Microsoft is finding the office business to be a tough one. Microsoft's Information Worker business unit, which includes Office, grew revenue only 2% in fiscal 2005, compared with 17% the year before.

Nonetheless, the rumors about Google becoming a desktop vendor persist. An article I wrote about the subject in April 2004 still holds up. In it, I quote blogger Jason Kottke, who says: "Google is building a huge computer with a custom operating system that everyone on earth can have an account on." Kottke said more than 2-1/2 years ago: "Google's money won't be made with search. That's small peanuts compared to selling access to the world's biggest, best, and most cleverly utilized map of the Web."

Kottke's prediction then jumps the shark when he speculates about Google selling cheap PCs running Gnome and Linux, tailored to take advantage of the Google service, running their own office suite with built-in Internet collaboration, and priced cheap, cheap, cheap.

Why on Earth would Google want to do that, given that Microsoft, Apple, and various desktop Linux vendors already are supplying desktops for Google users and assuming all the R&D and support costs without costing Google a penny?

If Google is smart--and it does appear to be very smart indeed--Google will stick to the server-based software model that it has built its success on. If Google is smart, it will let Microsoft continue in the increasingly difficult business model of licensing software that users install and run on their own machines. Microsoft is having problems on its 30th birthday; the best thing you can do when your enemy is having problems is just stand back and watch.

For an example of Google doing what it does best, see Google Reader, its Web-based feed reader for RSS and Atom feeds. I thought I was addicted to feeds before, but since the product was introduced Friday, I've been spending more time than I care to think about just sitting at my desk, tapping the J on my keyboard (which moves the Reader's focus from one item to the next), and browsing my collection of 237 feeds. Behavioral psychologists teach us that the best way to re-enforce repetitive behavior is to offer rewards at random intervals, and that's how Google Reader works. You sit there tapping that J key, and you see interesting articles (the reward) mixed in with boring ones, to create that random re-enforcement.

Google needs to stick with innovative, server-based technology like Google Reader. If it decides to get aggressively in the desktop software market ... well, can I suggest that Google's own Froogle service would be a good place to shop for water skis, swim trunks, and a leather jacket?

By the way, for a photo of the Fonz making his death-defying leap, click here. The Jump the Shark site that started the catchphrase is here and makes for hours of time-wasting browsing fun. Wikipedia has an interesting article on the subject here. Wikipedia writes that the phrase "is used to describe the moment when a television show or similar episodic medium is in retrospect judged to have passed its 'peak' and shows a noticeable decline in quality, or when it has undergone too many changes that take away the original charm and interest of the show" (emphasis added).

Got something to say about this subject? Leave a comment on the blog.

Mitch Wagner
[email protected]

2. Today's Top Story

Intel Adds Dual-Core Xeons Supported By HP, IBM, And Dell
Intel is offering a 2.8-GHz dual-core Xeon processor now and plans to introduce a 3-GHz dual-core Xeon processor within 60 days.

Related Stories:
Q&A: AMD's Ruiz Sees 'Phenomenal' Future Ahead

Hector Ruiz, AMD's chairman, chief executive, and president, talks to InformationWeek about the company's future, its lawsuit against Intel, and a new wafer plant in Germany.

3. Breaking News

Firefox Loses Market Share--Again
For the second time in three months, Firefox's share of the browser market slipped, leading some analysts to say the alternative browser has reached its peak.

Google Releases Newsreader In Beta
Google Reader enables consumers to search for content on Web sites and then subscribe to RSS and other news feeds.

EBay To Buy VeriSign Online-Payment Service
EBay will pay $370 million for an acquisition that will expand its PayPal payment-processing service. VeriSign also will become eBay's preferred security vendor.

Mozilla Launches Final Thunderbird 1.5 Beta
Thunderbird 1.5 Beta 2 sports improvements to auto complete, an enhanced automated update system, and performance and security updates.

IBM Drops Patent Fight With SCO
Dropping four patent-infringement claims could speed up IBM's countersuit against SCO by limiting the amount of information SCO can obtain through legal discovery.

Dutch Police Crush Big 'Botnet,' Arrest Trio
A huge network of 100,000 PCs was used to conduct a denial-of-service attack against an unidentified U.S. company in an extortion attempt, as well as for many other nefarious deeds, according to Dutch police.

Stanford's Stanley Takes Darpa's $2 Million
The robotic vehicle made history Saturday and defeated teams from 36 states and four foreign countries to win the Grand Challenge race.

Venezuela Government Closes Some U.S. Tech Firms
The move appears to be part of a massive tax audit now under way.

Mobile Security Products On Tap
Among other new wares expected at a conference in Chicago this week is the PGP Support Package for BlackBerry, a jointly developed product that allows for automatic encryption and decryption of E-mail on BlackBerry handsets.

Yahoo Adds Podcast Search
The service, in beta test, heightens Yahoo's competition with Apple's iTunes.

Google Plugs Cross-Scripting Security Hole
The bug could have allowed attackers to grab a Google user's cookie.

RFID Implementation Challenges Persist
Sure, RFID is useful--but problems and costs associated with it continue to cause frustration, even among true believers.

A Tale Of Two Cities
EarthLink has nabbed the contract to build a Wi-Fi Network in Philadelphia, and it's competing with Google for a similar project in San Francisco.

All our latest news

Watch The News Show

John Soat with "Headline Mechanic" in the current episode of "The News Show."

Also in Monday's episode:

Don MacVittie with "Virtual IBM"

Eric Chabrow with "Real Brains"

Doug Henschen with "Racing Robots"

----- The latest research, polls, and tools -----

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Security Defense
Examine the security practices of 2,540 U.S. companies in InformationWeek Research's 2005 Global Information Security Survey report. In addition to spotlighting security best practices and near-term investment plans, the study also documents recent security incidents.


4. In Depth: Microsoft

At Age 30, Microsoft Grapples With Growing Up
The once-nimble competitor struggles with bureaucracy, miscommunication, and redundant internal technology projects--and hopes its recent corporate reorganization will resolve many of these problems.

Microsoft Debuts Virtualization License Plan
Under new terms, customers can pay license fees for the number of processors the software will run on in virtual mode.

Microsoft Opens Hotmail Kahuna Beta
Kahuna will be the new user interface for Hotmail, with a look, Microsoft has promised, that more closely resembles Outlook. The beta has now expanded to the public.

Office Politics: Google-Sun Alliance Squarely Targets Microsoft
Two industry leaders team up on Java, a search toolbar, and engineering. But it's their plans for PC apps that could shake up the market.

Microsoft Loyalties
Love Microsoft's products or hate them, chances are you use them. InformationWeek sister publication Network Computing surveyed 1,354 business-tech pros on their use of Microsoft offerings to get a closer look. Data from that survey is featured on this page.

5. Voice Of Authority: Langa Letter

Langa Letter: Testing 10 Windows 'Registry Cleaning' Software Packs
Fred Langa tries to make sense of wildly disparate claims and rates the best free and commercial products.

6. White Papers: Spyware

Spyware Has Taken Over My Computer! The Problem And Growth Of Spyware
Because of its popularity, the Internet has become an ideal target for advertising. As a result, spyware, or adware, has become increasingly prevalent. When troubleshooting problems with your computer, you may discover that the source of the problem is spyware software that has been installed on your machine without your knowledge.

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