“Google does have to be all things to all people,” Ballmer said yesterday in an interview in New York. “Our search does not need to be all things to all people.”
Google may be tentative about changing the look of its search pages, causing the company to take fewer risks, said Ballmer, 52. The challenge is similar to what Microsoft faces with its Windows operating system, which needs to appeal to a broad range of customers, he said.
I find Mr. Ballmer’s position interesting for a number of reasons.
For one thing, I have noticed no slow down in Google’s push to come up with new things. Many of their newer ideas, such as Gmail and Google Docs, do not interest me (though I am drooling over an Android phone!), but they are still new things.
The other piece is that Microsoft does not have a history of innovation. They have a history of taking ideas that other persons have come up with and running with them. Without getting into the whole anti-trust case thing, no Windows product that I have ever used was something new in computing. It was an attempt to compete with already-established products.
Internet Explorer took on Netscape, which, as the first graphical browser, was the innovation (anyone who ever used Telnet to surf the web will realize what a game-changer Netscape was). Indeed, while Netscape was changing the landscape of computing, Bill Gates was extolling the CD as the next and future trend (I can’t find a link–it was too long ago, but I saw a video of the speech).
Later on the article, Bloomberg has this:
“The premise of Ballmer’s argument is that there is still time,” said Rob Helm, vice president of research at Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Washington. “People have been doing advertising on the Web for a while now, and Microsoft has missed some of the major innovations. It’s not clear to me that there’s that much running room left for Microsoft.”
Google’s size doesn’t prevent the company from innovating, said spokesman Eitan Bencuya.
“Search remains at the core of everything Google does and we are always working to improve it,” he said. “We are more focused on search innovation, and have more engineers working on search, than ever before.”
Microsoft writes great applications. I’m an old linear thinking WordPerfect guy and never did like Word’s “styles” approach, for example, but Word does what it does very well.
I do not think that innovation is in Microsoft’s corporate bloodstream. And Google has become so financially successful that, unlike some of the companies I mentioned above, they have the resources to fight back in the competitive boxing ring.
Disclaimer: The opinions above are mine, not necessarily anyone else’s.