Saturday, July 11, 2009

Google’s Microsoft Moment ↦

Google’s sudden and detail-free announcement of an upcoming Chrome OS has prompted vast quantities of analysis. Anil Dash has used the moment to discuss Google’s corporate culture more generally:

Google’s recent development work on applications for mobile devices has often been delivered exclusively as applications for their own Android platform instead of as iPhone applications, despite the fact that iPhones are roughly forty times more popular in the marketplace. […] Now, it’s obviously good company policy to make sure to support Google’s own platforms, and Google does an admirable job of using generic open web technologies where possible to avoid having to choose between platforms at all. But choosing to leave the majority of users in a given market unaddressed because they are on a platform that is not part of your corporate goals is short-sighted and leaves a lingering sense of mistrust.

Mr. Dash correlates this tendency with the history of the technology industry’s favorite villain, Microsoft:

If you look at Microsoft ten years ago, or even as recently as five years ago, they had a tendency to say “Well, we’ve got a version that works on Windows Mobile.” or “This works on Internet Explorer” and feel that they’d done their job for addressing mobile or the web. […] They were putting their corporate agenda ahead of what the marketplace had chosen as its preferred platforms. But after all these years, Microsoft’s internal teams have finally started to develop their web or mobile versions of products to work on competitor’s browsers and competitor’s mobile platforms, recognizing that they have to go where the users are, instead of favoring only the platforms created by their corporate siblings. Google appears to be headed the other way.


Though it’s almost impossible to picture now, in the era when Microsoft was formed, IBM was synonymous with an almost Orwellian dominance of information technology. It’s been a full 40 years since the antitrust actions against IBM, and IBM is seen as a bastion of open-sourceness now, but Microsoft’s founding mindset clearly was shaped with the idea that “those old guys from the last generation are evil, and we’re the nimble, smart upstarts who are going to humanize this industry”. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, John Gruber points out the biggest question of all:

It makes no sense to me why Chrome OS isn’t based on Android. Maybe there’s a good answer to this, but Google hasn’t given it.

(via Daring Fireball)