The day that Microsoft’s and Google’s worlds collided

When we did our recent Top 100 Technology Companies for the Gitex issue of IT Weekly, there was one very noticeable absentee from the list. It was a company that we were fairly sure a lot of Middle East users are very familiar with — and use regularly — but somehow didn’t seem to fit any of our categories. We’re referring, of course, to Google.

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By  Peter Branton Published  October 16, 2005

|~||~||~|When we did our recent Top 100 Technology Companies for the Gitex issue of IT Weekly, there was one very noticeable absentee from the list. It was a company that we were fairly sure a lot of Middle East users are very familiar with — and use regularly — but somehow didn’t seem to fit any of our categories. We’re referring, of course, to Google. There aren’t many IT companies that can claim to have been name-checked by Jennifer Lopez in a movie, but Google can boast that (admittedly highly dubious) honour. The phrase to Google has now become as ubiquitous to web searching as hoovering has to cleaning your carpet. However, since most of us don’t currently pay Google anything at all to use its products, it doesn’t always get seen as a major IT vendor. That is not to say that other IT companies haven’t noticed its threat however: just ask Steve Ballmer. Microsoft’s larger-than-life CEO was recently alleged to have threatened to “f*****g kill Google” and to have thrown items of furniture about his office when a senior Microsoft engineer, Mark Locovsky, said he was leaving the company to join the search engine outfit. While Ballmer has said the account is a “gross exaggeration” of his actual reaction, he certainly didn’t take the defection calmly: the two companies have been locked in an extremely bitter courtroom battle about the defection of another former Microsoft staffer, Kai-Fu Lee. What is concerning Microsoft is considerably more than just the problem of having to hire more good staff: Google’s presence on the desktops of so many users makes it a threat to Microsoft’s own near-monopoly position on computer users’ experiences. Like many others in the industry, Microsoft sees search as the Next Big Thing for users: Google is already threatening to become synonymous with searching. If all the guys at Google wanted to do was search on the internet, that may not be such a bad thing, even if it did dent Microsoft’s ad revenues from MSN. What the software giant will undoubtedly fear is that Google will be able to use that base not to just do searches on the internet, but pretty much everything else: the web could finally become the primary computing platform. This month’s announcement of a closer tie-in with Sun Microsystems was seized upon by many commentators as a signal that exactly that is due to happen. So far, the deal seems limited to a cross-promotion of each others’ products online, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from commenting on the potential of the deal. And Sun and Google have plenty of links, with Google CEO Eric Schmidt being a former Sun staffer and executives from Sun having long expressed their admiration for Google’s model. “How many CIOs picked Google? Zero. How many employees use it? All of them,” Sun’s president Jonathan Schwartz said in a February speech. For those worried about the inexorable rise of Google, perhaps we shouldn’t get too alarmed just yet. Last week, Schmidt was asked just how long it would take to actually index all the world’s information and make it searchable. “We did a math exercise and the answer was 300 years,” he told an audience at an industry conference. “The answer is its going to be a very long time.” It seems certain that we are not going to have to wait anywhere near so long before Google makes its next move in the industry.||**||

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