Microsoft, Google Provide Great Web Joust in 2008

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-12-12

Microsoft, Google Provide Great Web Joust in 2008

The year 2008 may be known as the year Microsoft truly tried to up the ante versus Google in the battle for Internet supremacy. Search engine market share Google, meanwhile, looked to extend its tendrils on the Internet.
Microsoft tried to attack Google on the consumer Internet front, offering to buy Yahoo for $44.6 billion Jan. 31.
The deal would give Microsoft the No. 2 position in search and enable it to challenge Google on the Internet. Google  Feb. 3 denounced the deal as anti-competitive, and Yahoo declined the offer Feb. 11, triggering a mass of meetings and a contentious war of words.  

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer lowered the boom on Yahoo April 5, telling the company that if the two companies couldn't come to a decision regarding Microsoft's $31-per-share purchase offer within three weeks, it would take its offer directly to Yahoo's shareholders. 

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn got involved, threatening to wage a proxy fight for Yahoo and hounding Yahoo's leadership to step down. Meanwhile, Google was content to extend its sphere of influence on the Internet.

Already the dominant search engine with more than 60 percent share of searches worldwide, Google April 7 introduced Google App Engine, a tool designed to let programmers build Web applications on top of Google's infrastructure. The tool is an alternative to cloud computing infrastructure from Amazon Web Services.

While Microsoft struggled to gain control over Yahoo, Yahoo kept innovating. Yahoo April 24 introduced YOS (Yahoo Open Strategy), the company's plan to make its portal a social network.

Yahoo's plan was let programmers write applications for Yahoo's mail, sports, search, front page and mobile platforms that will jazz up the user experience for the portal's 500 million-plus users. Yahoo would later roll out its SearchMonkey and Yahoo Mail as open platforms, core to the YOS strategy.

A month after App Engine, Google took another step in its ambitious wireless strategy by sinking $500 million into the revitalization of struggling wireless Internet provider Clearwire. Ideally, Clearwire could support phones based on Google's Android mobile operating system, extending Google's influence on the mobile Internet.

Google Leaves Yahoo Before Consummating Marriage

Fast-forward one month. Hours after Microsoft walked away from the Yahoo deal, Google and Yahoo on June 12 confirmed a nonexclusive deal to run Google's search and contextual advertising technology through its AdSense for Search and AdSense for Content advertising programs on the Yahoo search engine.

Google and Yahoo hoped to go forward with their deal, awaiting approval from the U.S. Justice Department. With Microsoft seemingly in Yahoo's rear view mirror, Google on Sept. 1 shocked the world with the launch of Chrome, the company's open-source Web browser, dashing any doubt that Google and Microsoft weren't going toe-to-toe for the Web. 

Google claimed the browser needs to be stable, fast, secure, clean, easy to use and open source, presumably all things that Microsoft's leading Internet Explorer browser is not.

Later that month, Google struck another blow against Microsoft, this time on the mobile Web.

Google, T-Mobile and other HTCs Sept. 23 unveiled the T-Mobile G1 smartphone, the first Android mobile operating system-based device. The G1 boasts a touch-screen, a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and a trackball to give users the most accessibility possible while searching Web content from a mobile device.

Experts are anxiously awaiting tallies for the G1 for the end of the year, looking to see if they will compare with that of Apple's iPhone, which took only 74 days to sell its first 1 million units. If Google's Android can find purchase in other devices, it could, over time, give Microsoft Windows Mobile a run for its money, or so experts think.

The Microsoft empire struck back Oct. 27, as Microsoft unveiled Azure, the Web version of its Windows platform, on top of which Microsoft's SAAS apps will eventually run in 2009. This truly marks a major new front in Microsoft's Web war with leader Google. The high-tech world anxiously looks forward to what these two vendors will do in 2009.

One week later, on Nov. 5, Google announced that it was ending its proposed search ad deal with Yahoo, a major blow for the company, whose CEO Jerry Yang would step down Nov. 17.

Google's flight from Yahoo cost Yang his job, throwing into question Yahoo's viability in the future, particularly with Yahoo Open Strategy and its mobile plans.

Microsoft's Ballmer went on to hire former Yahoo search guru Qi Lu, a search ad mastermind, as head of the company's Online Services unit, setting the stage for an interesting new battle with Google in the new year.

In 2009, Google will focus on furthering its Web goals, with Microsoft nipping at Google's heels. Will Microsoft circle back around for Yahoo? Will Google gain any market share on the Web with Chrome and Android? These questions bear watching.

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