Last week saw announcements from Google and IBM about office productivity app launches that, according to the tech punditocracy at least, promise serious threats to Microsoft’s lucrative hegemony on the enterprise desktop. Of course, one would expect the bloggers and other pseudo-journalists to get [fired up] about a new assault on the Death Star — even if they have to overlook that the “rebels” gunning for Microsoft are, themselves, two of the most hegemonic companies in the world.
Let’s forget for a moment that IBM has had competitive products in the marketplace for a decade that have made little headway against Office. Their current embrace of Open Office is akin to starting a race over from the blocks with [one foot hobbled]. Let’s also forget that the people at Google [don’t even use] their own products. Why would anyone think that going up against Microsoft in its stronghold was a good business plan? More sober heads, who actually know something about how IT departments purchase and use software, [pretty much dismiss] the likelihood of IBM or — especially — Google breaking the lock that Microsoft has over business apps. Cripes, even Google’s partners [can’t make a case] for their business model. Which begs the question, what are they really up to?
I think the answer is contained in [this little story] that went by almost unnoticed (or at least uncommented upon) in the blogosphere. Remember the days when it seemed like a new virus outbreak was crippling Windows computers worldwide every other week? Well, according to the Computer Security Institute, incidences of viral attacks have been falling since 2000 and last year, for the first time, the threats to business by viruses were eclipsed by good old fashioned human malfeasance and ineptitude. What may be good news for you and me is very bad news for Microsoft’s competitors. For the past few years Microsoft has been preoccupied with shoring up the security of their flagship products and pushing out Vista, Office 2007, Exchange and Sharepoint. With that effort largely behind them they can now turn their attention — and their almost unlimited resources — to… other matters.
IBM and Google (and any number of other companies) don’t want to be in the cross hairs of a Microsoft looking for its next big win. And Ray Ozzie’s plan to open the Office ecosystem to web services targets both of them. So they are engaging in a little pre-emptive strike that aims to promote the impression that Microsoft is vulnerable in its core business. For IBM, they may hope to thwart inroads by Microsoft into the SMB market that IBM has stated is crucial for growth going forward. Google, especially, needs to try and appear as a viable contender in the software as services space. In my opinion they are a very fragile company — completely reliant on advertising for income, virtually absent from the enterprise space and without any significant bulwark against a downturn in the economy. Every time Alan Greenspan on his book tour makes a comment about the chance of a recession now standing somewhere between 30 and 50%, it must make the Googlers shake a little in their shoes.
In fact, if advertising spend is used as a leading indicator of economic health, the recession may have [already begun].