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February 21, 2008

The Unnerving Microsoft

In an aggressive post from the Official Google Blog, David Drummond argued earlier this month that "Microsoft's hostile bid for Yahoo! raises troubling questions. (...) Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies -- and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets."

Apparently, these ideas are shared by Google's co-founder Sergey Brin, who declared in an interview that Microsoft's bid is not welcome for the Internet. "The Internet has evolved from open standards, having a diversity of companies. And when you start to have companies that control the operating system, control the browsers, they really tie up the top Web sites, and can be used to manipulate stuff in various ways. I think that's unnerving." According to WordNet, "unnerving" means "formidable, redoubtable, inspiring fear", so probably the word means "worrisome" in the context.

In the past years, Google was upset that Microsoft decided to make Live Search the default search provider in IE7 and Windows Vista didn't provide a way to integrate third-party desktop search tools like Google Desktop in the operating system. Microsoft will certainly try to increase its online presence by leveraging its software + services strategy and by making it easy to access its online services from applications that are presented as upgrades, but we should not forget that Google also uses its homepage to promote services and bundles its toolbar with popular applications.


  1. I am no fan of Microsoft, and a big fan of Google.

    However, Google's view on the proposed MS/Y! combo is unnerving.

    As a proponent of individual rights, free-enterprise and capitalism I vigorously defend MS's right to buyout Y!, and Y!'s shareholders to say 'yes' or 'no'.

    Beat MS the marketplace with better products and service that compel customers to choose with their dollars. Don't go bitchin' to momma (ie, Goverment). Haven't we learned enough from the MS/Netscape debacle from years ago?

  2. The difficulty with all of this is that regardless of how much computing is "in the cloud" right now, there is a tremendous amount that is dependent on the computer and, for now, for the most part, the computer=MS. So when MS says they are looking to take on an even bigger role on the Internet, then it's something to pay attention to.

    I'm not suggesting that the takeover be ruled illegal and MS be slapped on the hands. In fact, I think that the whole idea is a bit bone-headed and likely to not do much for either company. It reminds me too much of AOL/Time Warner.

    Instead, I think that it's a good idea for people to be wary of the deal, to question it, and to make it very difficult. MS is a nasty company and it's right to take them seriously. I just hope that Google doesn't make the Sun mistake--they need to concentrate on creating the best technology that they can and MS be damned. If they worry about or start gunning for MS, they are headed down a bad path and it is the users who will suffer.

  3. sergery brin concern is valid,and in future it may become our concern also.

  4. As much as I hate MS's monopoly position (believe me I do - I have to make sites work in IE), you can't really fault them for setting Live Search as default in IE7. At least they allowed competitors.
    That's like telling Ford that you can't have official Ford parts in their cars (sorry, that's the best analogy I could come up with at 3:15am)

  5. Should Google really talk about monopoly? Haven't they look at their market share for search?

    Google Toolbar is bundled with virtually every free product like Flash, Java, etc.

    Their buy of DoubleClick makes them reaaaaaaly big at the ad market. (Here actually Microsoft cried to mom about monopoly...)

    Apple does the same. Of course they will ship iTunes, Safari and QuickTime with OSX. Why souldn't they? Still, I don't here any mac users complaining. The open source fanatics don't even complain about Apple lock in of purchased music that only plays in iTunes and iPod.

    And what about making Google the default search engine in Firefox and other non-microsoft browsers. Isn't that exactly the same?

    And didn't Microsoft open up for third party desktop search providers in SP1 of Vista?

    I love Google services. Google search is by far the best. Google Reader is the only RSS reader for me. Picasa is just awsome! There are tons of good Google Services and I love that they put preasure on Microsoft.

    But it annoys me that it's okay for Google or Apple to do what Microsoft does, but not for Microsoft to do the same thing.

    // Johan

  6. While the point of this post is well made (and certainly relevant),
    I'm at a loss as to why anyone felt the need to explain what the word "unnerving" means. Or to coach the reader on its use in context to Brin's quote.

    Is this just some subtle piece of humor that has gone over my head? Or is the author really of the opinion that the majority of the people reading this entry are ignorant of this word?

    But more to the point: Google has certainly employed some MS tactics in its bundling of services and apps. The difference, is that Google does not have the reputation for being a toxic partner/competitor as MS does. Google supports open standards and is the giant that it is because of the quality of its services/apps. I'm able to sync data, bookmarks, and passwords across 3 computers (2 macs, 1 xp) using google services. Apple's .mac would cost me $99/year to do the same. Google's are free.

    Google is not perfect, no one is. But the long shadow of MS backstabbing 3rd party developers when they introduced MS office, the whole OS/2 scandal, and the generally poor quality of its products as of late (Vista, red-ring-of-death 360, etc) has just reminded people of what a sour taste MS tends to leave in the mouth.

    People say its a new company now. Really their just like the rest of us: we're judged by our peers based on what we say and do. And MS has a long way to go in earning back people's trust and respect.

  7. Brent, I've been a long time fan and admirer of the blogs that Ionut has published to this site. I must thereby defend his choice to define the word "unnerving". I can see by the comment you added to this blog that you are well sophisticated and grammatically advanced. However, I would be inclined to assume that most people may not actually know what "unnerving" means or would even bother to look it up (to say the least).

    At-any-rate, I'll get on to my point regarding MS/Y!. I have to agree with the majority of you. MS should be allowed to buy whatever company they wish to buy just as Google has over the years. However, I believe that any company bought out by MS is going to go to "crap" really quick. On the other hand, everything that I have seen Google buy into has turned to pure gold.

    My favorite Google Apps:
    Grand Central
    Notebook (though Zoho Notebook has a lot more customizable options)
    Docs & Spreadsheets

    Hey, Ionut, why is target=_blank not allowed? Oh well!

  8. Check this posting "Plan B: What if Microsoft doesn't really hope to buy Yahoo at all?" by Robert X. Cringely, remember, Google have to defends it's turf, just like MS, it’s a public co. Time will tell, it's a big money game.

  9. So says the CEO of the company that is trying to *also* control our medical record. They have your e-mail, your web history (searches & accesses), your documents, your reading habits, your books...

    Google is really loosing sight with this MS/Y! deal.

    About Google turning everything into gold:

  10. Please re-read what I said and make special note that I did say "everything that I HAVE SEEN Google buy into". I had no idea that Google even purchased Dodgeball.

    Had Dodgeball been something really worth Google's attention I probably would have known about it before they even decided to purchase the company. All of these social networks are becoming a blur to me anyway. Dodgeball is just another speck of sand on the beach. I suppose Google came to this conclusion as well after they had already purchased the company.

    Oh well. We learn..we learn.

  11. Some things missed by the comments so far:

    (1) It is not illegal to have a monopoly. It is illegal to use that monopoly to extend your success into other areas. Microsoft does this all the time and the fact that the US government took them to court has only slowed them down, not stopped them from the practice.

    (2) Google does have a monopoly on search, but it is as fragile as the leaves in the fall compared to the Windows/Office monopoly. I could switch search providers in 30 seconds and never look back. I wouldn't have to buy a new computer (as I would if I decided to switch from Windows to OS X). Now if 90 percent of the world were using Google Aps instead of Office it would be another matter. But as it stands there is no comparison between the Microsoft and Google monopolies.

    Note that as Microsoft moves into the online applications area you are required to have both Windows and Office to get full functionality. Does any other online service have a requirement such as this?

    Many of you are probably too young to remember that when Windows 95 came out it did not support TCP/IP by default. You had to add that. Microsoft didn't want the Internet as it exists today to come into being, instead they wanted to provide their own protocols and I'm sure would have eventually required the login to some Microsoft network for people to connect to one another.

    We can't say that Google will never rise to that level of power as a provider of online services, but they have a long long way to go to get there.

    Microsoft threatens our freedoms now, and has done so for at least ten years already. They engage in a PR campaign that promises to open up their protocols (old tactic for them too) while moving in other areas to lock users into their one-size-fits-all paradigm.

    Whether what they do is illegal or not doesn't matter so much as does the fact that it is in the long run bad for the advancement of technology and bad for users, who won't realize what they are missing until it is too late.

  12. Microsoft not unnerving? I find it utterly inexplicable that anyone could possibly
    perceive Microsoft as anything but the diabolical corporate beast that it is.
    What supersedes my sense of loathing for Microsoft is my fear of Microsoft. I don't know where those that feel no sense of anxiety, disdain about Microsoft's fox-in-
    the-hen-house skulduggery were in the days when the Jolly Roger seemed emblematic of Redmond's take no prisoners,win at all costs subterfuge, as every much the predatory monopolistic behemoth there ever was.

    What has changed to a palpable degree is the loss of its characteristic swagger, the unmitigated arrogance with which Microsoft had once cut a humongous swath across the global corporate landscape with abandon, that today is a mere also-ran, forever eclipsed by the giant shadow of its arch-nemesis over in Mountain View.

    What with all the vast billions in its financial horde has it managed to eke out any sort of technological, innovative accomplishment? Microsoft in the era of web 2.0 is nothing but a testament to its utter ineptitude, left with what has always been for the overwhelming majority of scenarios,
    X Box notwithstanding, the Microsoft way to grow not by innovation, the offering of a better product but by throwing its cash around.

    This bland, uninspiring, monstrosity with all the style and character of a rhino in heat bereft of even the slightest most infinitesimal modicum/spark of originality or imagination,only its gigantic, elephantine corporate girth to simply bully, usurp the best and the brightest of a burgeoning new world of technology, to appropriate by dint of some unwritten law of eminent domain of its own making.

    Microsoft not unnerving? The acquisition of Yahoo by Microsoft is a black day for the internet and ultimately for all of us who will be the much worse for it. Microsoft will become less threating,predatory, sinister, duplicitous as a leopard will change spots.


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