Google, Microsoft Wage War of Words in Search, Cloud Apps Markets

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-12-19

Google, Microsoft Wage War of Words in Search, Cloud Apps Markets

The commercial is entertaining. A man brags about the great deal he just got on a pan he found using shopping results from Google. Then the pan bursts into flames, and the woman with him quickly puts out the fire with a handy industrial-strength fire extinguisher.

"You just got Scroogled," she said. The ad then features a Web address that takes you to a Microsoft-sponsored Website, The site has a link to the commercial, and a series of points on how Google has changed from reporting unbiased search results to featuring paid results.

The ad also offers to make Bing your home page, provides a link to the Bing Facebook page and provides examples of Google's alleged search engine bias. You can also watch other Bing commercials, none of which are quite as entertaining as the one with the combustible pan and the handy fire extinguisher. So far, I haven't seen any commercials touting Google's search engine, probably because it's far ahead of Bing in mindshare and users.

Meanwhile, Google is busy dissing Microsoft. First Google's product manager for Google Apps, Clay Bavor, said that the company won't develop apps for Windows Phone 8. In one interview Bavor reportedly said that nobody is interested in Windows Phone.

Next, Google's vice president of engineering, Venkat Panchapakesan, said his company would stop supporting ActiveSync for free to new Google Apps customers, although he did say that existing users would be able to keep that capability, and that the feature would still be offered to paying customers. Microsoft responded by inviting Gmail users to move to Outlook's cloud version.

Microsoft is also pushing its cloud-based SkyDrive, which is notable mostly because it competes with Google’s Drive app that is available everywhere except on Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. While you can go to the Google Drive site to install Google Drive and have its icon show up on the Windows 8 Start Screen, it won't actually run. On the other hand, Google does provide a search app that is designed for Windows 8.

So apparently Google has decided to withhold its apps from Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, claiming there's not enough interest.  But it has created a search app, because that's where the money is. Of course, you can still log in to Google Drive and other Google applications by using your Web browser, but that's not as convenient as having an app on the start screen.

Considering that most desktop and laptop users just go to their browser to reach a search engine, this is a curious choice on Google's part. But the company must feel that it achieves some sort of marketing objective. In the meantime, it makes using Google slightly less convenient for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 users than using Bing.

Google, Microsoft Wage War of Words in Search, Cloud Apps Markets

But perhaps Bing is the real problem and the squabbling about apps is just a side show. After all, Microsoft has had cloud-based products out there for a while and Google didn't seem to feel threatened until Microsoft started really pushing Bing. Now that Microsoft is really turning up the heat on Google, the search giant is responding in the only way it knows how, by refusing to build apps.

Having Google in a snit over Microsoft's attack on apparently commercialized search results does make things a little less convenient for Windows Phone 8 customers, but only a little. Microsoft includes a Gmail app on Windows Phone, along with apps for most other Webmail providers. You can search with a Google app on your Windows phone. But you won't find Google+ or Google Maps.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is dealing with the end of new free users of ActiveSync from Google by pushing, which along with Windows 365 does a credible job of challenging Google Apps.

So is this all a fight over nothing? To some extent it is, although Microsoft is spending a lot of money on mobile mindshare these days. The product placement budget seems to be sufficiently well funded for a Surface tablet and a bevy of Windows Phones to show up in pretty much every CBS drama I've seen recently. The "Scroogle" commercials were all over television the week before Christmas. Clearly, Google is under attack.

So the next question is this. Is Microsoft right when it charges that Google's search results are tainted by browser bias? They are. Google even admits this if you read far enough into the fine print. But does it really matter?

My experience is that when I search for something non-shopping related, I still get different results on Google than I do using other search engines including Bing and DuckDuckGo. Is it the result of search engine bias? That's hard to say, although I find the results from Bing and DDG more useful in my work than Google's.

The downside of this corporate pushing and shoving is that it hurts the customers from all of the companies concerned. Google's once famous claim to fair search results is clearly overcome by its own marketing department. Microsoft is looking like it learned about negative ads from the recent presidential election. But we don't need marketing to run amok, and we don't need negative ads. But I guess I should be used to it by now. After all, it's just like being in Washington all the time.

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