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Google's Obsession With Microsoft Burns Hotter

Google CEO Eric Schmidt made comments this week that could amount to a can of gasoline tossed onto a smoldering fire, and now the industry awaits Microsoft's inevitable response.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt claims that Microsoft has provided his company with a sort of 'reverse roadmap' of what not to do to achieve sustained success, a comment that shows just how preoccupied Google has become with its gigantic rival.

In a Thursday television interview with Fox Business, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was asked about the rapid rise and diversification of Google's business, and whether there might be some parallels to the ever-expanding business purview of Microsoft. Instead of taking the high road, Schmidt wryly observed that Google has learned much from Microsoft's past behavior.

"Hopefully we won't repeat the mistakes that Microsoft made ten years ago that ultimately led to all these things that happened with them," Schmidt told Fox Business. "In our case, we see ourselves as a disruptor, because we're using new technology to solve real consumer problems that, in some cases, people didn't even realize could be solved."

For solution providers, however, Google has been a different type of disruptor. Back in January, Google unveiled a reseller program for Google Apps Premier Edition and Google executives declared that would put them on equal footing with Microsoft in the channel. But VARs that have tried to work with Google say the company has offered little to back up this claim.

"They wasted weeks of our time, asked us to do their homework for them, paid us for none of our time and effort, and then awarded the business to someone else that hadn't put in any of this time and effort," said Daniel Duffy, CEO of Valley Network Solutions, a Microsoft Gold partner in Fresno, Calif. "In many ways, Google is exactly like Microsoft at its worst -- behaving badly, acting like a schoolyard bully, and taking advantage of others just because they can."

Google's bombastic channel claims are just one example of its fixation on Microsoft, which persists despite Schmidt's attempts to suggest otherwise. Earlier this week at an appearance at MIT, Schmidt was asked if Google is concerned with Microsoft's increasing incursions into the search leader's turf. That time, Schmidt didn't take the bait and responded in mechanical fashion.

"We at Google don't really focus on our competitors. We think you should focus on what you do best, and do it better than anybody else. I worry about our own non-performance more than I do Microsoft or Yahoo or other competitors," Schmidt said at the MIT event, as reported by Boston.com.

Schmidt can claim to not be focused on Microsoft all he wants, but fact that Google is running a billboard advertising campaign that focuses specifically on Microsoft Office's shortcomings is evidence to the contrary. Google Apps is the weapon Google is taking into battle against Microsoft, and the search leader has been using some very Microsoftian tactics to attack other areas of the software giant's business.

For example, Google has been taking pages from the Microsoft playbook by pre-announcing products well in advance of their release, with Google Wave being one notable example. For Microsoft partners, the distraction that Google creates by using this tactic is worrisome because Microsoft has proven it to be highly effective.

"Google has succeeded in getting buy-in on products that they have yet to develop, and this is a real danger in a world where perception is nine-tenths of reality," said Joseph Giegerich, managing partner with Gig Werks, a Yonkers, N.Y.-based solution provider.

Next: Microsoft's Obsession With Google


Microsoft, of course, is going hard after Google, as evidenced by the breathtaking sums it's sinking into the Bing decision engine, online advertising, and services. In reaction to the Google Apps threat, Microsoft earlier this week slashed the price of its Business Productivity Online suite to make it more competitive with Google Apps Premier, which costs $50 per user annually.

Although Google recently won a deal with the Los Angeles city government involving Google Apps Premier, Google's enterprise story isn't currently a threat to Microsoft. Still, Microsoft is very concerned about the inroads Google has made in the small business space and what implications they could have.

"Google's capturing of the small business community's business through Google Apps has the potential to become a gateway to the enterprise as those businesses grow and mature," Giegerich said.

The Google-Microsoft battle has been shaped by the former's mantra of 'Don't be evil,' but many forget that Microsoft as a startup made similar claims about 'freeing the world' to use low-cost computers and technology. Ironically, many industry experts see Google heading down the same path Microsoft blazed, ultimately with ignominy, a decade ago.

Google has been smart to stake its claim on the digital expanse before the laws and consumer rights were established to deal with the ramifications of its business model, notes Jeff Middleton, a Microsoft Small Business Server MVP based in Metairie, La. However, just as Microsoft eventually acquired the perception of being evil, so too will Google's benevolent business veneer be stripped away, predicts Middleton.

"Google will get into the same fire-pit, to think otherwise would be naive," said Middleton. "People just don't see the Google profits as aligned with invading their privacy in the process yet, but that time will come."

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