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Is Google becoming Microsoft with Android?

Google is deploying some of Microsoft's worst tricks with its Android launch. Let's hope it doesn't continue.

There's more than a whiff of truth to The VAR Guy's suggestion that Google's Android antics make it seem like the Microsoft of yore: heavy on marketing and light on substance. In particular, I'm equally dismayed by Google's "vaporware" announcements:

Throughout the 1990s and even today, Microsoft often pre-announces products to engage and excite ISVs (independent software vendors). Win the ISV battle, and you'll win the resulting product wars. It's a smart strategy, and Google adopted it when the company announced the path to Android. (Check out this preview video of Android devices.) But the strategy also has some downside: ISVs get early access to developer tools, but their work on an "emerging" platform often distracts them away from existing platforms and immediate business opportunities.

"Downside" for competitors, that is. This strategy is very tempting: you want the market to slow down and wait for you as a vendor, but few vendors have the brand impact to be able to command the market to do so. Microsoft does, and Google does. But the harm to real vendors that actually deliver substance is significant.

Google has always undercut this vaporware tendency with its "perpetual beta" product release strategy. This allows it to ship product without shipping "product." "Oh, it doesn't work? Well, it's just a beta!" Clever, and thus far effective, as Google's betas often outclass established products from other vendors.

Android, however, is different. It has underwhelmed, but has sucked up a lot of marketing oxygen. Let's hope this is an anomaly and not the beginning of a trend from Google.