Thursday, December 16, 2004


A great article by Charles Ferguson, co-founder of Vermeer Technologies (Microsoft's Frontpage), at MIT's Technology Review:

At breakfast, and repeatedly over the following months, I tried to persuade Barksdale to take Microsoft seriously. I argued that if it was to survive, Netscape needed to imitate Microsoft’s strategy: the creation and control of proprietary industry standards. Serenely, Barksdale explained that Netscape actually invited Microsoft to imitate its products, because they would never catch up. The Internet, he said, rewarded openness and nonproprietary standards. When I heard that, I realized that despite my reservations about the monopolist in Redmond, WA, I had little choice. Four months later, I sold my company to Microsoft for $130 million in Microsoft stock*. Four years later, Netscape was effectively dead, while Microsoft’s stock had quadrupled.

Google now faces choices as fundamental as those Netscape faced in 1995. Google, whose headquarters in Mountain View, CA—familiarly called the Googleplex—is only five kilometers from Netscape’s former home, needn’t perish as Netscape did, but it could. Despite everything Google has—the swelling revenues, the cash from its initial public offering, the 300 million users, the brand recognition, the superbly elegant engineering—its position is in fact quite fragile. Google’s site is still the best Web search service, and Gmail, its new Web-based e-mail service, Google Desktop, its desktop search tool, and Google Deskbar, its toolbar, are very cool. But that’s all they are. As yet, nothing prevents the world from switching (painlessly, instantly) to Microsoft search services and software, particularly if they are integrated with the Microsoft products that people already use."

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