Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Cringely is in great form: How Microsoft will respond to Google

Cringely is old enough to remember Netscape, though he forgets the 'Constellation' word. In his Nov 3 column he's in fine form -- comparing Google's impact on Microsoft to that of Netscape in 1995. Microsoft utterly crushed Netscape, though Mozilla Firefox emerged from the shattered remnants. (Originally it was called Phoenix then Firebird, lastly Firefox.) Now the story begins again. Here's what Cringely thinks will happen next:
PBS | I, Cringely . November 3, 2005 - It's Deja Vu All Over Again

...Now here is what will and won't happen over the next several months. Microsoft WILL claim to open its APIs to promote competition and play nicer with the world. But they WON'T actually do it. They will claim to have an open standard, but there will be proprietary extensions. In announcing Microsoft's Live strategy last week, Gates was essentially describing the worst fears of its competitors while at the same time begging companies not to sue him. But for all the hype this is hardly a new goal for Microsoft. The company has wanted to go this route since 1999, but has been stymied by a simple lack of execution. Microsoft wanted then and still wants today what they used to call "stateless computing" -- something they have always thought of in economic, rather than technical, terms. This is .NET reformulated. But for the moment it is pure vaporware.

The big question for Microsoft is whether they can compete in this new market without having to cheat? I don't think they can. Putting it simpler, since all cheating isn't illegal, can Microsoft really implement Windows Live and Office Live without breaking the law? I think they CAN, but I doubt if they WILL. I think that in Redmond the stakes will ultimately be perceived as too high not to cheat. Or maybe they simply don't know how to pay fair. Either way, expect trouble.

Now back to Google.

Don't forget that Sun is now officially in bed with Google. Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz's latest blog entry basically lays out the strategy (it's in this week's links). Combine his post with Google registering the domain "gdrive.com" and you'll see where they are going -- an Open Office thick client that receives "added value" from integration with Google's network services. Sun and Google are obviously and publicly in bed, but there is another player involved: IBM. In the Massachusetts legislature, where Microsoft is trying to get a law passed to keep the Open Document format from prevailing, the corridors this week were teeming with lobbyists from Big Blue.

Obviously Sun, Google, and IBM are all working together on this on some level. They all believe if they can break Microsoft's grip on Office users, then they have a shot on lessening Redmond's operating system dominance.

And where is Yahoo in this? That's what I am wondering.

All this wheeling and dealing is actually good for consumers. We're about to see two waves of technical change over the next three to four years that will completely change the landscape of computing. Microsoft will spend whatever it takes to retain control, which could mean ANYTHING. Seriously, ANYTHING. Windows for free? Don't be surprised if it happens.
Now THAT'S a prediction -- a 'free' version of Windows Vista, probably suited to XP-class machines. In addition, Cringely predicts: Microsoft will break the law again, Microsoft will try the old 'we're open' fakeout but they'll be lying, Microsoft will spend a fortune ... He doesn't predict they won't prevail however.

One of the tragedies of Netscape was that they and Sun fought tooth and nail. Netscape was all about the web and Constellation and JavaScript, Sun wanted the web to go away and get Java everywhere. By the time they were done killing one-another Microsoft needed just a shove to finish off Netscape. It was ugly.

This time the shattered remnants of Sun are aligned with the orphaned child of Netscape (Firefox), the still strong and vengeful IBM (OS/2 is not forgotten, and Google to bind them. Yahoo is choosing where to align and Apple's schemes are an utter mystery. AOL is all but irrelevant.

Should be a heck of an entertaining brawl.

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