I’m not quite sure what triggered the latest wave of anti-Google sentiment, from the death of Google Appsto the concept of Google stealing Apple’s ideas (really?) but I suspect it won’t go anywhere. For all the corporate spending on Apple-hatred in the Windows-versus-Mac debate, Apple has gained a sizable share, even against a corporate behemoth with a lock-in application like Microsoft Office. Ultimately, thanks to the Internet, the decision is largely in the hands of the user – we simply get to decide the best system, even if we are driven there by advertising, and we assess it.
Obviously, since I wrote a book on Google Apps (for full disclosure), you might suspect I’m pro-Google, but actually throughout my career I have been choosing tools that best create solutions. There were times when this was Microsoft Access over PeopleSoft, Microsoft Excel over Salesforce.com and the Ghost operating system over a Linux deployment, and even SQL Server over MySQL. Ultimately, in my line of work, I have to make a choice about how to meet the needs of users in the simplest and most cost-effective manner.
In recent times, I have been a big proponent of Google Apps, simply because of its unparalleled collaboration, accessibility and cost, even though it falls short of the full capabilities of Microsoft Office. My rationale here is based upon the fact that most users of Office in most companies don’t use its full capabilities, the training is easier, and the Gmail and Calendar platforms are superior to the Microsoft offering in almost every respect. In an economic environment that enables tens-of-thousands-of-dollars of savings for a better product, this seems an easy decision to make.
But in the wake of this anti-Google onslaught (including the incredibly spurious charge that Google is less secure than Microsoft, which is mindboggling at best), I wanted to make some neutral points that I hope would be considered without a bias towards any of the Big Three (Microsoft, Google and Apple):
Microsoft’s business model is centered around creating software that excludes other providers. It’s often excellent, sometimes appalling, but always builds on the brand to create a sense of how computers should operate. There’s a reason why airplanes don’t use Windows, but there’s also a reason why 90% of the world’s computers use the same operating system. From the Microsoft people I have met, my opinion is that they have no understanding of where everything is headed, no real understanding of users’ goals, and it’s quite clear to me that their classic “copy/buy/destroy” model must come to an end. Microsoft has copied almost every major competitor, and has failed on Bob, Xbox, Zune, Live – and my prediction soon would be Bing.
Apple has an excellent eye for design and user-interface acceptance, and has succeeded mainly on these two strengths without trying to take a lead in issues such as security and acceptance by corporations. Its near-fanatical following guarantees revenues even in the face of design disasters (iPod batteries, for example), but this is entirely understandable since many users confused by Windows – and they are often smart people, just to confirm – find a home in the Mac operating system enabling them to complete their tasks.
Linux has been an extraordinary success in the server market and a monumental failure in the consumer arena, against my predictions otherwise. Netbooks with Linux are returned four-times more frequently than Windows-based machines that are slower. I suspect that Linux has a few small jumps to get into the mainstream: installations have to be more obvious (please give me a MSI file instead of forcing me to burn an ISO), and skins could be designed that assist Windows users to transition. Ultimately, Linux is a more efficient and stable system and could provide a better environment for many users – but it needs some serious usability work. When users buying a $250 browser-heavy machine pay an extra 20% for Windows, they are sending you a message.
Google does deliver. It gives us everything for free while making money out of search. If Microsoft or Apple made money from our search, I suspect it would not be used in philanthropic ways. Of all the people I’ve met at Google, there is an enormous passion around making systems open, embracing the Internet, and – corny as it may sound – “not doing evil”. The concept that Google Chrome is trying to break Microsoft or the new Google O/S is trying to compete with Mac OS is nonsense, since both systems are engrained in open source technologies and aim to solve more complex problems (such as caching, offline access, temporary databases, and so on).Ultimately, it’s up to us as consumers to evaluate these companies and their technologies. But my guess, given we’re on the cusp of a technological singularity, is that Microsoft is not leading any movement right now, and there is a mutual push across alternative solutions that will draw us towards a technological solution that is more successful. I wish the media were more insightful on this topic, given the changes, but for now we look to the informal network of blogs and user groups to see the real trends, while the traditional media continues to fight against new technology.
What did you think of this review?