In the last few weeks we have seen some interesting developments coming from both the Google and Microsoft camps, which could indicate a shift for both companies in their direction, and therefore the future of the internet.
Google has released its first operating system, Android. There are rumours that Google is creating a desktop operating system to rival Microsoft Windows and Linux. If these rumours turn out to be true, then Google is moving into new territory, and will be competing directly with Windows. These rumours have been further stoked with the emergence of Google’s browser, Chrome. There are suggestions that Chrome is intended to be much more than a simple browser, it will allow Google to improve functionality of web applications. And it is here that we see Microsoft moving in Google’s direction.
Google’s emphasis to date has been for free software provided on its own servers - Google documents, GMail, Blogger, Google Sites and Google Pages, Calendar etc. etc. Even though the performance of its Blogger software could be enhanced if there was a desktop version (Blogger has poor FTP support for those hosting Google blogs on their own domains) they refuse to move in that direction, as their emphasis is on hosted applications. Microsoft, on the other hand, has always provided its software on disk, with a licence. However, last week we heard that Microsoft will soon be offering an online version of its Office bundle, albeit with advertisements.
So, is Microsoft moving into Google’s hosted applications territory? Will Google attempt to move into Microsoft’s desktop operating system territory? What will this mean for the internet, and for these companies? Diversification can be a dangerous strategy for a company. Google’s strength lie in search and advertising. Although criticised for an over reliance on its search engine, Google does now dominate the search engine market. By moving into Microsoft territory it risks diluting its brand. Unless of course it chooses to use the Android brand for its desktop operating system, and keep Google separate for Search. And will Microsoft Office online erode Google’s own online documents? And what of Microsoft’s other internet venture, its new CMS (website content management system) which seems to be taking on both Google’s Blogger and other offline CMS’s such as Wordpress, in one hit? And it is open-source, which looks like a seismic shift in company policy. The new CMS from Microsoft is called Oxite. It is built using the new ASP.NET MVC framework and is highly extensible, with features such as Microformats and source control integration. Will this revolutionise the way people build web pages? Is Microsoft planning a range of free software options, all served on the “cloud”. If so, it will be finding Google waiting, and hopefully ready for battle. Can they actually collaborate on projects, or will it be all out War in the Clouds?