Last Updated Jun 1, 2010 4:53 PM EDT
It seems clear that Google leaked the item. Several Google employees all confirmed a story that casts a negative shadow on Microsoft? Please -- obviously planted. Google's action is unexpectedly nuanced for the company and simultaneously targets a number of goals.
Deflect Security Problem Blame from ItselfGoogle has faced stiff criticism on how it handles user data for a number of years, with consumer watchdogs and even Congress weighing in. The loss of user ID information to hacking that was allegedly by Chinese authorities was an embarrassment. Google's response to the country was partly an attempt to protect its public image and keep consumer trust.
The most recent escapade was its collection of user data from Wi-Fi networks and its subsequent terrible crisis PR management. Once again, Google needs to redirect consumers to avoid a loss of trust. Why not intimate that Microsoft is the reason for its security issues? If Microsoft complains, Google can always invoke plausible deniability and say that it never made such a statement.
Counter Microsoft's AttackGoogle also raises security concerns about Microsoft operating systems as a retort to Microsoft's two years of attacks on Google over privacy. The efforts from Microsoft only intensified in April, when a company video claimed that "Google Chrome collects every keystroke you make" and that Internet Explorer 8 "keeps your information private through two address bars and In Private browsing." Then Microsoft publicly promised that it wouldn't read Hotmail users' emails as a way to tailor ads, underscoring that Google does this with Gmail.
Google needed to hit back, but is in an awkward position. To claim a privacy problem sounds disingenuous, so it now focuses on the closely-related issue of security. Plus, it can again invoke plausible deniability and claim that its choice is nothing but concern for data, and not a marketing game.
Undercut Perception of a Need for MicrosoftBetween cloud services, Google Apps targeting the Office cash cow, and mobile operating systems, Google would love for Microsoft to disappear. Many consumers and companies assume that they can't walk away from Microsoft, which explains why Windows still has 90 percent or more market share among personal computers. What better tool than a practical demonstration?
Google's decision to emphasize Macs over Windows machines as more secure also does double duty. First is an olive branch to Apple (AAPL) -- and there is the persistent rumor that Apple may put Microsoft's Bing search engine on iPhone OS, which means iPad as well. Second, Google CEO Eric Schmidt twists the nose of Steve Ballmer, his Microsoft counterpart, by suggesting a long-time rival as replacement.
Will it work? It's unclear. Whatever number of PCs that Google buys is insignificant to the total number sold. Google also faces potential negative kick-back. Pointing to Microsoft as culprit raises the question of how desktops could play such a big role in Google's server security. Additionally, this is a case of classic Microsoft-style FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) -- not necessarily what a company should display when trying to dodge negative public perception.