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Google Aims to Succeed Where Microsoft Has Failed



Watching the announcements streaming out of Google this week, I could not help but notice a certain trend. There were a slew of accessory devices and gadget applications shown off in what is unofficially being called “Android Everywhere”. They’ve bolstered their offerings with music streaming and movie rentals. They seem intent on breathing new life into the netbook category with ChromeBooks. Attacks against Apple? To an extent, but taken together, they form a strategy to succeed where Microsoft has failed.

Remember “Windows Everywhere”?

The phrase “Android Everywhere” is taken directly from the Microsoft mantra, “Windows Everywhere.” True, it’s an unofficial slogan being used by observers of the recent announcements, not by Google itself, but I think the observers nailed the intent. Whether or not Google is trying to deploy Android everywhere, the OS seems headed on that path.

By contrast, the progress of “Windows Everywhere” seems stunted. While it has crept into anything that resembles a desktop PC, such as supermarket checkouts, it has slowed or even stalled in other form factors, including tablets and media centers. That’s largely because the “Windows Everywhere” approach is not about putting Windows on every device, but turning every device into a PC. That approach worked for a while, but there is an upper limit on its effectiveness, and I think we’re hitting it. Google’s post-PC approach with simpler software that can run on more devices is still in its infancy with much more room to grow.

Wasn’t There Another iTunes Competitor?

Google’s new media offerings of music streaming and movie rentals are a direct attack against Apple’s iTunes ecosystem, but it’s not the first time a major competitor has entered this fight. Microsoft tried to fight iTunes with the Zune platform. But despite providing an experience that is more than comparable in some ways, it simply never emerged as a worthwhile threat and may even be folded into the XBox or Windows Phone brands. Google Music and Movies may never overthrow iTunes, but just being a vital market competitor would make it a success.

What Happened to Netbooks Again?

Once upon a time, netbooks were the new hotness, much like tablets are today. People were running out to grab these cheap little laptops with speedy SSDs and light operating systems. The market surged so quickly, it disrupted the entire PC market. And then it slumped. What happened? People decide they didn’t want netbooks anymore? Maybe. Or maybe they were turned off when netbooks got bigger and more expensive as they turned into Windows notebooks running on lesser hardware.

Arguably, netbooks are on the decline, particularly compared to the early years of their rise, a decline that started after Windows became the dominant netbook operating system. Undetermined is whether that relationship is causal. Personally, I don’t think it’s a coincidence, and based on their push with ChromeBooks, a.k.a. netbooks running Chrome OS, I don’t think Google believes in coincidences either. If Google can give the netbook category new legs, it will lend credence to the theory that its failing was Microsoft’s, not the form factor’s.

But Will They Succeed?

Ultimately, whether Google is aiming to outdo Microsoft in areas where they’ve faltered, trying to show up their rival, does not matter. Intentionally or not, they are following in the giant’s footsteps on these and other paths, and their efforts will be compared. I don’t know how successful Google can be in any of these ventures, but they have the advantage of learning from someone else’s mistakes. In that way, Microsoft’s shortcomings are already Google’s gains.

Update: Google is also gunning for Microsoft’s top success as well: desktops.



  1. massysett

    05/12/2011 at 4:25 pm

    I doubt netbooks can blame Windows for their stagnant sales. As soon as Microsoft cut the price of Windows for netbooks (first by selling old Windows XP, and now this garbage “starter edition” of 7) all the netbook manufacturers jumped ship from Linux and put Windows on all the machines.

    I think when the consumer picks up a machine that folds up like a lunchbox and has a keyboard, he thinks either “PC” or “Mac.” Macs he knows–they have the apple on them. PCs he knows–that’s everything else that folds up and has a keyboard. When he sees PC, he expects Windows. They’re just synonymous in most people’s heads.

    If he picks up a PC and it has something else–Linux? Chrome?–he gets confused. What, I can’t put Word on it? I can’t put Turbotax on it? I can’t download whatever I want and put on it?

    iPad managed to dodge this problem because it doesn’t fold up like a lunchbox and it doesn’t have a keyboard, plus it’s from Apple. People don’t expect it to have Windows.

    Chromebooks I think will be a yawn. People will see it doesn’t have Windows, they’ll get confused, and they’ll think either “I can pay a little more and get a real PC with Windows” or “I can pay a little more and get a cool iPad” “I just don’t need this thing, it’s not cool and it’s crippled because I can’t put what I want on it.”

    I don’t even say this as a Linux hater–all my computers run Linux.

  2. DNel

    05/12/2011 at 6:11 pm

    If Google is picking up Microsoft’s failings/shortcomings, can we hope to see “Tablet PC inking” on android tablets sometime soon (and not with N-Trig digitizers)?

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