Anyone who wears a suit to work knows that business relationships go beyond the Fight Club mentality of the geek press.
We (the press) are interested in good stories, anything that follows the simple five conflicts paradigm. (Man against man, man against nature, etc.) We like to apply those conflicts to companies. Google vs. Microsoft. Microsoft vs. Apple. Apple vs. Creative Labs. That's one reason why I started Friday Fights, to provide context for Google's battles.
Of course, corporations don't act like individuals. Not exactly. When it comes to partnerships and dealmaking, a corporation has its fingers in a lot of pies. Companies are like detective Vic Mackey in The Shield. Multiple allegiances, multiple dependencies, multiple problems that go beyond the daily headlines.
To wit: Today Google announced an advertising partnership with eBay whereby Google will provide text ads for eBay's international properties, and eBay will use those ads to promote "click-to-call" with Skype. You could spin this as Google vs. Yahoo, since eBay partnered with Yahoo for advertising on eBay's domestic sites. Or you could spin this as Google vs. Microsoft, since Google continues to grab big advertising clients while Microsoft's AdCenter languishes.
But the truth is there's no big conflict to report here. The overlapping interests, however, are fun to untangle.
eBay owns PayPal, Google offers Checkout. eBay won't allow users to use Checkout because that would not only erode PayPal use but would also acclimate users to Checkout and bring more attention to services like Google Base. If Google owns the transaction mechanism, Google owns the customer.
eBay owns Skype, Google offers Talk. Both services will be used in the international partnership, but eBay is promoting "click to call" in its domestic ad deal with Yahoo. Yahoo, meanwhile, promotes PayPal.
It's all very confusing. The long and short of it, though, is that these companies partner to achieve short-term business interests. Each knows there's more to be gained from cooperation on certain fronts than there is from outright conflict. What's more, it's possible to compete in one area (PayPal vs. Checkout) while collaborating in another (advertising).