Google, Microsoft compete to be 'platform of the world'

Google and Microsoft are duking it out to own the Web, and consumers and enterprises are unlikely to have the will to stop it. When will we learn?

Microsoft may have an innovation problem, but it has hubris nailed.

Take, for example, John Mangelaars, a Microsoft regional vice president, in an interview with CIO magazine. Mangelaars dispenses with niceties, arguing that Google and Microsoft are the only two games in town and that the stakes are immense:

Is it Google's world?

[Between Microsoft and Google it will be a] Battle of the Titans for who becomes the platform of the world.

And you thought it was just software....

In this case, Mangelaars may not be stretching the truth. There is a great deal at stake, and it really is about who serves as gatekeeper of the Web.

My question? Do we really want either company filling that role? Microsoft monopolizing the desktop did no one any favors, and Microsoft or Google monopolizing the Web won't be any better.

Or Microsoft's? Or yours?

It's not a question of who is or isn't evil. It's about the dangers inherent in centralizing control in any one entity.

The problem, unfortunately, is that few people or organizations think about this when making IT decisions. However much the open-source community talks up its ability to reduce or eliminate vendor lock-in, the reality is that consumers and enterprises choose technology based on near-term utility, not long-term choice.

About the only time vendors converge on open standards to ensure customer choice is when it suits their desires to dislodge a too-powerful vendor, as the HTML5 crowd is doing to Adobe's Flash or as IBM et al. have done with Linux to break Microsoft's Windows grip. In these cases, it's not really about customer choice so much as about giving vendors more choices.

I wonder, therefore, when we're going to see the industry rally to an open platform--what this means and who/what it will mean, I don't know--to keep Google or Microsoft from claiming too much control over the Web. Unfortunately, it almost certainly won't happen until it's almost too late, just as happened on the "desktop."

Why can't we learn?

About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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