Has Google Turned Into Microsoft?
Posted by Bob Warfield on September 6, 2007
I know there is an audience out there that is increasingly concerned with just how much Google dominates the web from the perspective that you can never trust a monopoly, just take a look at Don Dodge or Paul Graham to hear about why Google is the “most dangerous and feared company”. But this isn’t really what I meant by my question about whether Google has turned into Microsoft. Rather, I note that their offerings have a lot of the foibles that Microsoft is famous for.
Recently, Google introduced a no-brainer (a “Duh!” feature, as my kids would say) feature by adding search to the Google blog reader. I’ve used the reader for a long time, and it has always seemed silly to me that I didn’t even have a link to search inside the reader. I mean, Google is a frickin’ search company and how hard is it to add search anyway? And why didn’t they even think of this until now? So finally, we now have a search type in and the results are fed right into the reader. Eureka! What a nice thing. Except, they still didn’t quite get there. Where’s the button so that if I really like one of the links, I can just add that blog to my list for reading? And how do I restrict the search to only the most recent posts, something else I often like to do. Drat! We’re still not there. And I ask again, how hard was that anyway?
This is Internet development fer cryin’ out loud. And it’s being done at Google fer cryin’ out loud again. I see zillions of videos from brilliant people who visit Google to speak about all manner of brilliant topics. I have scores of brilliant friends who went to Google to work on brilliant things with the other brilliant people. They love the way Google encourages them to work on innovative projects they think of without too much pushing towards specific deliverables. And yet, the pace of progress seems glacial. All the while, the natural monopoly and network effects their franchise enjoys keep the growth of Google inexorable. Shades of Microsoft.
Take a look at how much Microsoft spends on R&D. I read somewhere it is equivalent to the sum total of VC in the Valley. I know that’s not true, but sometimes I think the only thing to come out of all that investment is Clippy. And we all hate Clippy, but Clippy won’t die! And then there is the new user interface for Office 2007, which I found incredibly annoying. It forces everyone to relearn where every command is. Is it really worth it so they can demo a spiffy new modal UI? Yes friends, that UI is a bunch of modes. It suffers from all the problems that we used to decry in UI design about modes. I remember that pulldown menus were tolerated because they were “spring loaded modes that went away after you were done”. Famous UI designer Larry Tesler has a license plate that says, “No Modes”, and was fond of saying “Don’t Mode Me In”. The new Office 2007 UI dispenses with all that was learned there in the interests of a pretty face. The menus just change toolbars and the new toolbars hang around until you select a new mode. So we have the problem that modes always bring: you’re always hunting for the command you needed and you’re never in the right mode for what you want to do right now.
Oh well. End of rant, I must have been feeling curmudgeonly today. I just hope Google hasn’t gone the way of so many big companies.
Speaking of Google, there’s some fascinating articles out that talk about how the Big 3 have been losing to the independents in the world of Shopping Search. How often do the big players in any industry lose out to the independents? Vive le Enterpreneurs!
Now that’s news.