Google and the Coming Search Wars, Revisited

Technology Review has a follow-up article by Charles Ferguson to the January cover story:

…My research on open source reconfirmed my view that standardization, platforms, and APIs and will prove just as important in the future, and in the search industry, as they have in traditional PC software and many other sectors. On the other hand, I also found strong reasons to think that the open source movement is changing the nature of standardization contests, and represents a powerful threat to Microsofts control over mass market software. Consequently, as new standards emerge, Microsoft may not be the one to control them.

Several people responding to my Google article argued that I had simply overestimated Microsoft, which, they said, was now at best mature and possibly in decline. I increasingly feel that they were correct. By relying too heavily on its monopoly control of Windows and Office, Microsoft has painted itself into a corner. Both Microsoft and its products are now large, aging, complex, and very expensive, rendering them vulnerable to attacks from below. Open source software, with its low cost, transparency, and decentralized development model, threatens the very foundations of Microsofts power.

Large computer vendors, corporate users, and governments have become increasingly frustrated by Microsofts behavior, and they are actively funding subversion, most notably in the form of the Linux operating system and applications based upon it. And, as I shall discuss at length in my forthcoming article, theyre winning.

The result is that Microsoft now faces increasingly serious threats to the entire spectrum of its mature businesses while it simultaneously tries to enter growth areas such as the Web, mobile devices, and the game industry. Thusfar, with the partial exceptions of the Xbox game system and the MSN portal, Microsofts progress have been singularly unimpressive. When I have asked knowledgeable friends recently about this, most of them say the same thing: Microsoft has lost its edge. Its over.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.