Microsoft: Offense is the Best Defense

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have long been students of Niccolò Machiavelli. The art of war, he wrote, and they apparently agree, requires that the Prince not dismiss morality; instead, he politically defines it. For cruel action to be effective, Machiavelli said, it must be decisive: swift, effective, and short-lived. His famous book, published in 1532, five years after Machiavelli’s death. The methods described by Machiavelli have the general theme of acquiring necessary ends by any means. According to Machiavelli, the greatest moral good is a virtuous and stable state, and actions to protect the country are therefore justified even if they are cruel. For Microsoft, substitute “Company” for “state” and “country.”

Machiavelli was not alone in holding these views.

Sun Tzu, the famed military strategist the presumed author of The Art of War (6th century BCE) famously said, “all warfare is based on deception” (chapter 1, paragraph 18).

Mao Zedong was of the opinion that “the only real defense is active defense,” meaning defense for the purpose of counter-attacking and taking the offensive.

Caught secretly funding all manner of complaints against Google, as we noted in our earlier post, Bill and Steve had Dave Heiner, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel take out his dog-eared and well annotated copy of The Prince (and unless Microsoft ultimately is successful in shutting down your access to this book now in the public domain, you can read it online yourself, courtesy of Google, if your copy is not handily available). Heiner then penned his attack, implicitly acknowledging that Google’s complaints were correct, but attacking nonetheless. Danny Sullivan, as usual, has a complete, fair, and balanced report on his highly recommended SearchEngineLand blog.As Sullivan says,

Microsoft acknowledges that it’s been trying to influence the relevant regulators with its opinions of Google:

Over the past few months Microsoft, too, has met with the DOJ and the European Commission. The subject of our meetings has been the competition law review, now completed, of the search partnership between Yahoo! and Microsoft. As you might expect, the competition officials asked us a lot of questions about competition with Google—since that is the focus of the partnership. We told them what we know about how Google is doing business.

Microsoft goes on to complain of “Google business practices that tend to lock in publishers and advertisers and make it harder for Microsoft to gain search volume.”

Unfortunately, according to Hans Baron (1900 – 1988), Machiavelli’s motive in writing The Prince was “to entice Lorenzo de Medici to commit the suggested crimes so as to reap the Florentines’ harsh judgment sooner.”

The Googlegazer guesses that neither Gates nor Ballmer ever read Baron.

Defeated in Tech Ring by TKO, Microsoft Hits Below Belt in Street Fight (Part 3)

Understandably, the behemoth from Redmond, WA is running scared.

Since, it effectively lost the main tech wars that matter “fair and square” in the tech ring by a technical knockout, it resorted to throwing three devious “below the belt” punches in the street.

How so?

First, Google made the courageous decision to stop filtering information at the whim of the Chinese oligarchs, even if it meant withdrawing from China, once they discovered agents of the Chinese government initiated an internet attack and broke into their servers, aiming to steal Chinese dissidents’ Gmail accounts. On Jan. 12, 2010 Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said that Google will cease censoring results on Google.cn, and will discuss with the Chinese government whether or not the company can continue to offer its search engine in China after the hack into Google’s servers was revealed.

Rather than standing up for freedom, and helping to beat back the repressive attack, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, backed by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, issued pious, mealy-mouthed kiss-up statements to the Chinese such as “You’ve got to decide: Do you want to obey the laws of the countries you’re in, or not? If not, you may not end up doing business there.” (After a little prodding, Google’s complaints received backing from the White House).  Microsoft is only concerned about the almighty dollar, right and wrong (which Microsoft has never been too good at differentiating) be damned.

Strike 1.

On Feb. 23, we learned three Internet companies filed complaints with the Brussels-based European Commission alleging that the search engine is demoting their Websites in Google search results and not respecting fair competition. The EC, the antitrust watchdog of the European Union, agreed to look into it.

The complaints were made by Ciao.de, a German subsidiary of Microsoft Corp.; Foundem.co.uk, a U.K. price comparison site; and Ejustice.fr, a French site specializing in legal search inquiries, Google said.

Google intimated this whole affair reeks of Microsoft and we agree.

A Microsoft subsidiary complaining about Google to the EU. Now there’s an irony. Over the last decade, the commission has levied fines of about $2.5 billion on Microsoft for antitrust violations and not adhering to its promises. That’s really the pot calling the kettle black.

Strike 2.

For several years, Google meticulously negotiated a deal to make out-of-print books available, sharing fees all around, much as radio stations pay music publishers when songs are aired on the radio. The proposed deal is not mandatory; authors can opt out. But Microsoft funded something calling itself the Open Book Alliance in opposing a plan that benefits authors (such as your truly), publishers and readers the world over, and is backed by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers

OK. So let’s get the right. The authors and the publishers and Google all agree. Microsoft abandoned its Book search service in 2008, so it has no dog in this fight. Why fund the opposition then? A Google spokesperson says it sounds like sour grapes. The GoogleGazer agrees.

Strike 3.

According to the rules of baseball, when three strikes occur on a batter, it is a strikeout and the batter is automatically out.

Defeated in Tech Ring by TKO, Microsoft Hits Below Belt in Street Fight (Part 2)

Losing Share in the Browser and Email Wars

Even though it ships free with Windows, Microsoft has for years been losing market share in the browser wars to Firefox, Safari, and more recently, to Chrome. It’s still dominant, but a far cry from its near-monopoly a few years back.

Compare the same stats a year ago.

In the past year, its share dropped from 68.46% to 62.12%

Now, it’s starting to lose its stranglehold on business email hosting. According to The Wall Street Journal, more than two million businesses are using the paid or free version of Google Apps, nearly all of that coming at the expense of Microsoft.

Google Apps, not yet a rival to Microsoft Office is getting better every month.

Disclosure: The GoogleGazer retired his Microsoft Exchange server three years ago, and has been paying to use Google Apps Premier Edition ($50 per user per year)ever since.The GoogleGazer continues to use Microsoft Office 2007 on his desktop; who knows for how much longer.

Chrome OS Hits Microsoft in the Jugular

Google’s fast, free, lightweight and open-source Chrome OS, introduced July 7, 2009 is nearly ready for release.

A plethora of hardware is sure to follow. liliputing says Acer is on track to release devices running Google’s Chrome OS in the middle of 2010 with expectations of shipping one million units in the first year, Acer already makes the Acer Aspire D250 that dual-boots Windows 7 and Android ), Microsoft’s lock on the operating system will continue to drop.

Free is good.

Defeated in Tech Ring by TKO, Microsoft Hits Below Belt in Street Fight (Part 1)

Microsoft, still the leader in yesterday’s desktop operating systems and software has lost decisive battles in the tech boxing matches, in what is effectively a technical knock-out.

As we shall see, it lost it in the tech ring, so it took its fight into the street, and hit Google below the belt.

Several times.

Losing the Tech Fights

Consider these sorry facts:

Bing, for all the money spent on it, has barely 10% of the market, according to comScore.

IIS, Microsoft’s Internet Server, has less than one quarter of the market (in terms of domains served)

Netcraft Server Maket Share

and far less in terms of total traffic.

Netcraft Active Server Market Share

Cell Phone Fight Even Worse

On the cell phone, its results are even more devastating.

comScore December 2009 Platform Market 1

Note that Google more than doubled its market share in three months while Microsoft’s has continued to drop. The Noisy announcement of its still-to-come “new generation” cell phone platform, ineptly named Windows Phone 7 Series (I’m not kidding) is not only very late to the game, but drew mostly yawns.

Google Pulls the Plug on Wall Street Journal, Restricts Financial Times

The GoogleGazer noticed two days ago that Google searches no longer returned results from the Online Wall Street Journal, even when queries were crafted to elicit hits from WSJ specifically.

News Corp., owner of the Wall Street Journal had long threatened to do exactly that if Google refused to pay them for their content.

Apparently they have, more or less.

The Wall Street Journal has a “public” section while the bulk of the site is restricted to paying subscribers. Once the dust settled, the public portion remained indexed in Google, while the “subscriber only” portion seems to be blocked, forcing paying subscribers to use the far more primitive Search function on the online.wsj.com site.

Paying subscribers can test this by doing a search at online.wsj.com and then repeating the same query in Google, prefixing it with Site:online.wsj.com, which restricts the query only to the Wall Street Journal.

Similarly, Financial Times offer only limited free access. Google searches restricted by Site:ft.com may or may not return Financial Times’ content. FT.com has a more robust search engine.By it’s a pity that you can (apparently) no longer do all your searching in one place, even if you pay subscription fees to both.

Although no one seems to be talking, it seems like each of these august sources of reliable data wants to get paid for allowing the little snippets that Google searches return, and so far, Google hasn’t agreed.

The GoogleGazer hopes this gets fixed. Information wants to be free, as Stewart Brand said at the first Hackers‘ Conference in 1984.

Google Gives $2 Million to Wikipedia

The Wikimedia Foundation announced that it had received a $2 million gift from Google Inc. Charitable Giving Fund of Tides Foundation.

Wikipedia is one of the greatest triumphs of the internet,” offered Google co-founder Sergey Brin. “This vast repository of community-generated content is an invaluable resource to anyone who is online.”

Wikipedia founder and Wikimedia Foundation board member, Jimmy Wales, also commented on the Google gift. “We are very pleased and grateful. This is a wonderful gift, and we celebrate it as recognition of the long-term alignment and friendship between Google and Wikimedia. Both organizations are committed to bringing high quality information to hundreds of millions of individuals every day, and to making the Internet better for everyone.”

Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, offered: “It is wonderful that Google has stepped forward as a major supporter of a global, non-profit information commons. With this generous grant, we will be able to fund additional operations and development work to increase access and contributions to our free knowledge projects globally.”

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