Google and Microsoft have never been best friends, but their battles used to be fought behind closed doors, in board rooms and strategy planning sessions.Not anymore.
In the last year or so, the companies have taken to fighting in public on issues ranging from patents to stealing search results.
But the real question is: who’s winning? (Other than the tech press, who loves writing about this stuff.)
We decided to run a tally….
Last February, Microsoft invited Google search spam prevention head Matt Cutts (shown here) to appear on a panel moderated by a Google critic, Vivek Wadwha, and Bing's Harry Shum. It looked like it was going to be a slaughter, with everybody ganging up on Google's increasingly spammy search results.
But in a brilliant preemptive strike, Google released proof that Bing had been scraping Google's search results. Google researchers created landing pages for fake words like 'hiybbprqag,' then watched as Bing 'discovered' the same pages. They released the proof to Search Engine Land a few hours before the panel, then Cutts stuck to the theme.
Microsoft tried to explain that it used Google search results as only one of many inputs for relevance, and that obviously fake words were naturally going to show up identically in Bing because they don't exist anywhere else, so Bing had no other source for information about them.
Still, the results told such a familiar tale -- Microsoft being unable to innovate -- that everybody ignored the fine explanations. The scandal even made Steven Colbert joke that 'hiybbprqag' meant 'you got served.'
Not only did Gundotra break Microsoft's cover -- Google had also been negotiating with Nokia -- but he also managed to get a good rip on both companies in the process.
The U.K. launch of the first Nokia-Windows Phone in November has so far done nothing for Windows Phone's market share, which is still stuck below 2%. Meanwhile, Google's Android is still the leading smartphone platform in the world, with more than 50% share.
WINNER: Google. The case studies were both small companies, and neither had actually bought Google Apps -- they were just trying them out.
The companies in the case studies were small -- one had less than 10 employees -- and neither actually bought Google Apps. They were simply trying it out. Microsoft ended up looking desperate for wins, even though the company swears that's not the case. (Microsoft says that it's hard to find big companies who switched because so few big companies ever deployed Google Apps in the first place.)
This battle came down to an obscure government set of security specs called FISMA. Google had long claimed that Google Apps were certified. But Microsoft found a court filing in which the Department of Justice said that Google Apps for Government was NOT in fact certified. A couple of days later, in testimony before the U.S. Senate, a government expert seemed to agree.
In 2010, Microsoft started asking Android resellers for patent licensing fees, and sued companies who refused to pay.
Google didn't have enough patents to fight back, so it tried to bid on a bunch of patents from bankrupt Canadian telco Nortel. But it lost out to a consortium that included Microsoft and Apple.
Google's top legal eagle, David Drummond, took to his blog to criticise these companies for running a 'hostile' campaign using 'bogus' patents.
WINNER: Microsoft. A few weeks later, Google dropped $12.5 billion on Motorola, largely to get patents to fight back.
Google seems to have realised that Microsoft had a point after all.
More embarrassing, it turns out that Microsoft had actually invited Google to participate in the Nortel bidding consortium, but Google counsel Kent Walker declined in a polite email. Which Microsoft PR chief Frank Shaw made public.
WINNER: Undecided, although Google's privacy policies aren't out of line and most users probably won't care.
That said, Microsoft was right to point out that Google's paying customers are advertisers, not users. Sometimes, you get what you pay for.
This one won't be decided for a few months, once we see whether users care at all and start switching to Bing and Hotmail. (Our guess: most users won't even notice.)
Google didn't pick as many fights as Microsoft, but at least it won one of the fights it picked. So far, Microsoft is zero for three, and the privacy fight doesn't look like it's working out to well either.
Better for both companies: stick to making customers happy with great products. But that wouldn't be as much fun, would it?
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