Google and Microsoft are at it again. But this time Google is attacking Microsoft for threatening Linux users for patent violations.
In an announcement made earlier this week, Google signed on with the Open Invention Network (OIN), which is supported by Red Hat and a few other Linux heavyweights. The Open Invention Network is an organization designed by and for Linux developers, distributors, sellers, resellers, and end-users to protect them from the onslaught of costly lawsuits or other attempts made on them by bigger and better-funded enterprises. But until Google joined the fray on the side of the OIN, some people were skeptical of the ability of Linux to stand up to Microsoft.
That skepticism is over--Microsoft is in for a rude awakening.
Microsoft and Google are two of the most powerful tech companies you will ever come across. Microsoft carries no debt in its financial structure. Google carries no debt in its financial structure. Microsoft enjoys a $281.26 billion market cap while Google harbors about half that. What does all of this mean? Both companies have lots of cash with high-powered lawyers who are poised to take each other to task. And while I believe this is true and both companies will square off in a courtroom eventually, Microsoft is deathly afraid of Google. Google may not have the cash on hand that Microsoft does, but it has a more advantageous public perception as well as the same contacts and pull with Congress that Bill and his boys have.
If you take a look back at all of the lawsuits Microsoft has been a part of, I don't think you can find me one instance where the company wasn't able to get its way. The federal government tried to take Microsoft to task and even that didn't work!
But the difference between the late '90s and today is that Google wields equal, if not more, power than Microsoft. If Redmond took on the boys at Google, it would be ugly and costly for sure. But regardless of the camp you side with, Google would come out on top.
Microsoft's claim on patent violations is nothing more than glorified bullying in the hopes that the "weak" will raise the white flag. Along with threats of costly lawsuits, Microsoft has also silently hinted that it would accept a closure of the distributions in return for some financial remuneration. But finally Google has stepped in to raise the ante. Why should Microsoft be allowed to bully these Linux developers? An even better question: why does Microsoft bully these developers?
It's very simple: because they could. But with the inclusion of Google in the OIN, could has become the operative word. Microsoft doesn't want to have an all-out battle with Google--it's too costly, and if Google wins, where does Microsoft stand?
But Microsoft's fear of Google goes far beyond Linux and open source. Microsoft is deathly afraid of Google's continued dominance on the stock market, Google's significant control over Web searching and, most important, Google's dominance on Internet advertising. Google represents the future of the technology industry while Microsoft is the past. And while Microsoft knows this and is desperately trying to work its way back to prominence, it has a long way to go, and sparring with Google for a few rounds will not help matters.
Microsoft and Google will have a day to go at each other for everything--the writing is on the wall. But at this point in each company's development cycle, the time for a fight just isn't right for Microsoft, while Google would welcome a knock-down, drag-out. Simply put, a fight between Microsoft and Google would end badly for the former, while the latter would cement itself as the most prominent tech company for the next decade.
As hard to believe as it is, Microsoft is running scared. Courtesy of Google.
Every Thursday, Don picks a current-events topic and discusses how it will impact us in the future. Check out more from Don's Future Implications series.