The possibly-too-quick-for-it’s-own-good rise of Google has set them up squarely as the new arch rival to Microsoft, and their latest advertising angle suggests more than a mild concern over the pre-installed applications in Microsoft’s looming Windows Vista, which is now in Beta testing.
Google have good reason to be concerned, because something Microsoft are already keen to promote is how Vista will help to “manage digital memories”, which to the layman means “show Photos and Videos”. To this end Microsoft look set to include “Windows Photo Gallery” when you buy the operating system.
Google have a photo management system called Picasa, and it’s now possible for Google advertisers to earn revenue by referring potential Picasa users to Google.
Previously Google only paid for two kinds of referrals: (1) to their advertising services and (2) to their own version of the Mozilla Firefox Browser, so the introduction of Picasa to this small group could be interpreted as a move to grab as much of the “digital memories” market as possible before Microsoft can use their monopoly to swamp the market.
Folks who’ve been around computers for a while will see strong parallels with the denouement of the “browser wars” of the the late 1990’s.
The main worry that Microsoft had about Netscape was that the Netscape web browser provided a means for thin client computing to become popular again. Thin clients had been common during the mainframe era, when the client was a simple box that did data input and output, with little or no processing. As the Personal Computer took hold, the processing moved from the mainframe to the client, and Microsoft made it’s money by selling an operating system for every client.
Microsoft feared Netscape because their browser re-introduced the concept of the thin client, and to mitigate the risk, Microsoft wanted to control the browser market. To this end they (unlawfully) gave away Internet Explorer freely with the Windows operating system in an attempt to “cut Netscape’s air supply” [Maritz]. The US Department of Justice ruled that “Microsoft’s dominance of the personal computer operating systems market constituted a monopoly, and that Microsoft had taken actions to crush threats to the monopoly.”
Changing the game
That was 10 years ago. Today Microsoft see Google in a similar vein because they are starting to deliver on the potential that Netscape opened everybody’s eyes to. Google’s web based applications make the operating system irrelevant, so they destroy the foundation of the Microsoft monopoly.
That’s the potential, but it can’t happen without there first being a free, open source alternative operating system for people to use instead, which is why Google’s recent push into the Linux market, and this most recent of advertising twists is an ominous foreshadowing of the corporate battle ahead.