Today we're running the third in a continuing series of conversations concerning the Web's very own Hatfields and McCoys, Google and Microsoft. Every Friday, I pit my meager wits and florid prose against veteran Microsoft journalist Mary Jo Foley as we discuss competition between the two companies. The friendly fights begin Friday mornings, when one of us posts a note, and then the other responds. We'd love to hear what you think, so please leave your thoughts in the comments.
Today's topic: Will Google Rain on Microsoft's Vista Parade? Mary Jo sent the first note, and it's available now on Microsoft Watch. Here's my response.
From: Bryant, Stephen
Sent: Friday, September 1, 2006 11:05:00 AM
To: Foley, Mary Jo
Subject: Re: friday fights: Will Google Rain on Microsoft's Vista Parade?
You certainly are looking ahead, Mary Jo! I have to admit I hadn't even thought about the Vista launch yet, let alone Google's plans to disrupt it, Animal House style. I've been playing keep up with the joneses on the news this week: Google launching what looks to be an eventual MS Live competitor and Google's CEO joining Apple's board. But I like how you're thinking ahead to Vista's launch in January, so let's roll with it.
(BTW, you're right: Google Apps for Your Domain (GAYD) is the worst name ever. Google must be using Microsoft's marketing team.)
I think the possibilities you listed are good choices. But I don't think Google will announce anything that will compete directly with Vista. That's simply not its style. Besides advertising, Google releases products that compete on the margins of established markets. It's not really in Google's interest to throw down the gauntlet against Redmond anyway, because once it does, the Street (and the geeks) will judge it explicitly based on that goal. Better to compete on the edges and build up a loosely joined suite of products that slowly disintermediate users from the desktop.
All that said, here are my choices for what Google could do:
1. In the next five months, roll Writely into GAYD (ack!) and offer the package as a competitor to Microsoft Live. That would pit Writely against Windows Live Writer, Google Talk against Live Messenger, etc. But would that make a big news splash? I dunno, seems the excitement there is over. So that roll-up will happen, but it won't detract from Vista's launch, even if Windows Live is a big part of Vista.
2. Announce more OEM partners. I think your second suggestion, that Google will announce more OEM partners, is more likely to disrupt the Vista PR parade. (I wasn't aware of Microsoft's 12 Principles to promote competition, thanks!) I can easily see Dell adding desktop links to Google's online apps, like Spreadsheets and Writely, although I wonder if the Dell consumer market would even understand those online services. What's more, Google's online apps don't obviate Microsoft's desktop software. I still need Excel. But still: Wouldn't it be funny to see all those Vista advertisements in stores, followed by Google's logo?
3. Google Audio. By the end of the year I expect to see something beyond radio with Google Audio, possibly with podcasts. (Does anybody even care about podcasts anymore? I'm so over them.)
4. More video syndication deals. I also expect more video syndication deals with companies like Viacom.
5. Video game advertising. I don't see Google getting into games, unless it's advertising in games. That's a tremendous market, and one that Microsoft, of course, is already involved in.
6. Content distribution with Hollywood partners. The Google/Apple connection, as everyone has noted, may affect Microsoft. Personally, I think Schmidt's place on Apple's board only brings him closer to Hollywood. Remember, Jobs is on Disney's board, plus Apple continues to negotiate with studios and networks for video distribution. Maybe that will play into Google's video syndication plans.
7. More mobile apps and deals. Finally, I'm going to take Google's CEO at his word and assume Google is developing more mobile apps. And we'll see deals with mobile providers to provide search services and mobile versions of Google online apps. Let's not forget that adoption of Vista will take years, so Google has all that time to insert itself between Microsoft and its customers.
All of this adds up to a light--but constant--mist falling on the Vista launch. Not a flash flood, but that's Google's style. Maybe I'm wrong though. I'll ask my readers, they know a few things.
So what do you guys think? I admit, I'm stumped. Google has to be planning something big, but what? It's not going to let Microsoft steal the spotlight all through January and February, is it?