Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, December 27, 2004

Google vs. Microsoft: The Risks Of A Unified Search Industry Leadership

In a highly informative nine-page report published today by Technology Review and entitled "What's Next for Google", technology writer Charles H. Ferguson reports about the likely strategies, possible outcomes and far-reaching risks that the impending battle between Microsoft and Google for search dominance may bring about.


He writes: "The best technology does not always win; superior strategy is often more important.

Winners do tend, however, to share several important characteristics.

They provide general-purpose, hardware-independent architectures, like Microsoft's operating systems, rather than bundled hardware and software, like Apple's and Sun's systems.

Winning architectures are proprietary and difficult to clone, but they are also externally "open"--that is, they provide publicly accessible interfaces upon which a wide variety of applications can be constructed by independent vendors and users.

In this way, an architecture reaches all markets, and also creates "lock-in"--meaning that users become captive to it, unable to switch to rival systems without great pain and expense."



"In all of Microsoft's successful battles, it has used the same strategies.

1) It undercuts its competitors in pricing,

2) unifies previously separate markets,

3) provides open but proprietary APIs, and

4) bundles new functions into platforms it already dominates.

5) Once it has acquired control over an industry standard, it invades neighboring markets.

In contrast, the losers in these contests have usually made one or more common mistakes.

They fail to:

a) deliver architectures that cover the entire market,

b) provide products that work on multiple platforms from multiple companies,

c) release well-engineered products, or

d) create barriers against cloning."

But, the critical reflection that Mr Ferguson makes while concluding his essay, is probably the most important and the one closest to my own concerns.

"Whether Google or Microsoft wins, the implications of a single firm's controlling an enormous, unified search industry are troubling.

First, this firm would have access to an unparalleled quantity of personal information, which could represent a major erosion of privacy. Already, one can learn a surprising amount about ­people simply by "googling" them.

A decade from now, search providers and users (not to mention those armed with subpoenas) will be able to gather far more personal information than even financial institutions and intelligence agencies can collect today.

Second, the emergence of a dominant firm in the search market would aggravate the ongoing concentration of media ownership in a global oligopoly of firms such as Time Warner, Ber­telsmann, and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

If the firm dominating the search industry turned out to be Microsoft, the implications might be more disturbing still.

The company that supplies a substantial fraction of the world's software would then become the same company that sorts and filters most of the world's news and information, including the news about software, antitrust policy, and intellectual property.


If Google dominated the search industry, Microsoft would still be a disciplining presence; whereas if Microsoft dominated everything, there would be fewer checks upon its mediocrity."

Recommended reading.

For an alternative and highly speculative take on the of future of search, be sure not to miss the truly brilliant masterpiece from Robin Sloan:
Summary Of The World: Googlezon And The Newsmasters EPIC

Highly recommended.

Full original article: "What's Next for Google" by Charles H. Ferguson - Technology

Photo credit: Eaglehawk Holiday Park - copyright Copyright © 2002, ContACT Internet Solutions Pty Ltd.

Charles H. Ferguson -
Reference: Technology Review [ Read more ]
Readers' Comments    
blog comments powered by Disqus
posted by Robin Good on Monday, December 27 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.




Real Time Web Analytics