Why I'm passing on Google's 10th anniversary

I'm quite sure I didn't make a big deal about Microsoft's 10th, either. But Google at 20? Now that will be something to behold.

If you're Eric Schmidt, you have to pray that Google is not going to need to hire an out-of-work comedian when it turns 30.

Happy birthday? You better believe it, pal.

Of course, Google has another couple of decades before reaching that milestone. By then, Schmidt will be kicking it in the Bahamas (or wherever it is that gazillionaires spend their golden, um, in this case, platinum years.)

It's been awhile, but I'm quite sure I did not write a piece marking the cosmic significance of Microsoft when it reached 10. (And I'm not going to bore you by writing about the metaphysical meaning of Google at 10, either. Here's the BBC report. )

Besides, there was a reason why Microsoft at 10 was hardly worthy of much note at the time. In 1988, you could have declared Microsoft to have been first among equals, though not much more than that. Yes, the company was growing fat and happy thanks to the incredible money machine that was DOS. And of course, each time a PC went out the door, Bill Gates and Co. received a royalty payment.

But Microsoft also had to contend with the likes of Lotus Development Corp., as well as WordPerfect, Borland, Ashton-Tate, Novell, and others. We know how the story ended. There were myriad reasons why history turned out the way it did--too many to recount in this space. But it's important to recall the way the computer industry's history actually unfolded. Microsoft's dominance wasn't guaranteed and the company had to claw its way to the top of the heap.

Schmidt knows this narrative through first-hand experience. He also knows that Google at 10 occupies a stronger position than did Microsoft at a similar point in its history. Neither Microsoft nor Yahoo have found a way to upend the search business. So that leaves the economy and the likelihood of a Martian invasion as Google's two biggest potential challenges. Can't do anything about the economy, though one has to believe (hope?) that the current meltdown eventually stops. As for the Martians, not to worry: California can call Schwarzenegger.

As for Google at 10, who cares? The better story is Google at 20. If past is prologue, that's going to be something to behold.

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