Google is dominating Microsoft, right? Microsoft hasn't a clue, right?
According to a collection of blog posts from people that have worked at both Microsoft and Google, there's much more than meets the eye. In particular, it would appear that Microsoft, crusty thirty-year old that it is, has learned quite a bit about how to add process to enable (somewhat) smooth functioning at scale.
Google? Not so much.
As one ex-Microsoftie who joined Google, only to decide to return to Microsoft, puts it:
This orientation [at Google] towards cool, but not necessarily useful or essential software really affects the way the software engineering is done. Everything is pretty much run by the engineering - PMs and testers are conspicuously absent from the process. While they do exist in theory, there are too few of them to matter.
On one hand, there are beneficial effects - it is easy to ship software quickly...On the other hand, I was using Google software - a lot of it - in the last year, and slick as it is, there's just too much of it that is regularly broken. It seems like every week 10% of all the features are broken in one or the other browser. And it's a different 10% every week....
I heard similar complaints at a recent lunch with some friends that have deep ties into Google. Google has yet to learn how to put polish on products (by which I mean the total product, not the UI). It tends to start lots of projects in that "20 percent of employee time," and finish far fewer. Search is currently the tonic that covers a multitude of sins at Google, but will it do so forever?
Microsoft has its problems - plenty of them. But for those looking for structure and a career path, Google may not be the place to go.