Google has engaged Microsoft in a long-term death-match on a series of fronts, as Dan Frommer and Nicholas Carlson at Silicon Alley Insider noted this morning, in a piece on ten areas that Google and Microsoft are fighting it out.
But I disagree with four areas where their handicapping doesn't do Google's strength enough justice.
- Operating systems
Edge: Microsoft, as Chrome OS is not even shipping.Yes, Microsoft has 90 percent of the operating systems in place, and as Dan and Nick note, that doesn't leave much of anywhere to go but down. But Google's strength is much greater than simply the power of inertia. Every point of market share earned by Google's Chrome operating system opens the door to more customers having a good experience with Web-based apps. Whether they're from Google or Zoho or someone else doesn't matter â€"- it hurts Microsoft tremendously because it hits Microsoft's most important franchise--the desktop Office suite.
Chrome will also win the preponderance of market share in the netbook space, which is the fastest-growing segment of the PC market. In contrast to vanilla Linux, which never had a chance, Chrome sounds cool to the extent that customers will make conscious decisions about their operating systems; but, more importantly, vendors will use Chrome because it will make their devices work better than Windows. Guaranteed.
Edge: Microsoft. Size matters. But Microsoft needs to catch up on the user experience front for Hotmail/whatever it's called these daysYes, Microsoft has an enormous edge, but this is one area where Google is already making strong inroads, largely thanks to its acquisition of Postini, which solidified its email security credentials. Combine that with Google Gears for offline access, the new plug-in for Outlook (or substitute a client like Mozilla's Thunderbird, which is free, resembles Outlook in most ways, and lives on the desktop) and you've got a very strong case for switching from a very expensive platform. My colleague Erik Sherman likes to point out that email is such a mission critical application that no Fortune 500 CIO in his or her right mind would switch to Gmail to save a few hundred thousand bucks, but the fact is that some are doing it and others are seriously considering it.
Edge: Microsoft. Even Firefox has barely cracked 20% of the market, according to Net Applications, after years of pushing. Chrome will take a long time to be relevant to mainstream users.See my comments regarding the operating system. Browsers are another critical element in the adoption of online apps, and that is ultimately Microsoft's Achilles Heel. Google is going to deliver a browser that online apps vendors like Salesforce.com will even recommend to their customers -- the first time since "this site is best viewed using Netscape" disappeared from the online landscape. The effect will be electrifying.
- Mobile Operating Systems
In the next year, as mobile companies build Android into dozens of phones, we'll learn if it's a winner. Meanwhile, Microsoft has amazing tools at its disposal -- Windows, Xbox, entertainment products, Hotmail, money -- but needs to make Windows Mobile not suck.Dan and Nick are ignoring the most important aspect of this, which is mobile apps. After the iPhone, nothing is cooler than Android apps, and because they're both built to the same standard, developers can create apps for both app stores -- not so with Microsoft. So customers who want a cool new app but don't want to buy an iPhone (for whatever reason) can still get the app on an Android phone. As we've seen, apps are the tail that wags the handset.
Google's ascendancy couldn't be more obvious.