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Microsoft Hedges Its Bets
The best case scenario for Microsoft is that the world of computing continues to follow the PC with operating system and locally installed software paradigm. Much of the Microsoft Battle Plan is dedicated to keeping this system intact, but they have a backup strategy as well. Assuming the world does embrace cloud computing as Google is pushing, Microsoft will be ready and waiting to do battle with all comers there, as well.
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The Microsoft Cloud
Microsoft's main thrust into the cloud computing space is its Windows Live services. Windows Live provides many of the same services that Google offers on its platform. There is email (Hotmail), Calendar, Instant Messaging, Contacts, SkyDrive (online storage), Spaces (websites like Google Apps), Photo Gallery (like Picasa) and more. With analogous services offered for free on its site, Microsoft ensures that users who haven't already started using Google services in the past have no reason to go there now. An average Windows user with a Hotmail account is only too happy to add on the Live Photo Gallery rather than sign up for a Google account in order to use Picasa for photo sharing.
Microsoft's latest offering may be its killer app. With control and knowledge of the inner workings of Windows, Microsoft is developing several services aimed at synchronizing various computers with each other. So, instead of the Google method of storing all of your information and applications in cyberspace to be accessed from anywhere, Microsoft will offer to keep all of your data up to date on the computers you already own and use. And, with the growing concern over privacy at Google, some users may find it more refreshing to keep their data synced across their own hard drives where they have all the control.
Microsoft debuted a form of this type of service in 2008. Called Foldershare, the service allows a user to install a small client on their computer (locally installed, no cloud software here). By installing the client on a second computer, a user can define folders that they want to be kept in sync. The service then monitors those folders on both computers and then uses the Internet connection of both computers to move files back and forth as necessary. The files are not stored on any servers out on the Internet. Instead, they are just copied using the connection. This does mean that both computers must be online at the same time for the service to work, but with the number of computers left on overnight for virus scanning, updates, or backups increasing, having two systems running at the same time doesn't seem like much of a stretch.
Still, that isn't necessarily an idea that crushes the cloud computing concept. For that, Microsoft turns to an old strategy; adopt the good, and change the rest. Welcome to Microsoft Live Mesh, a service which allows users to sync not just files, but bookmarks, contacts, and many other preferences across not only multiple systems, but also to mobile devices like cell phones. If that wasn't enough, Live Mesh also comes with its own desktop. The Live Mesh desktop embodies the cloud computing strategy. A user creates a virtual desktop that resides out on the Internet and can be accessed from anywhere. The Microsoft twist is how closely the desktop integrates with real world Windows computers. A simple client allows a user to copy, move, and delete all from a virtual drive that integrates right into a user's familiar Windows experience.
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Microsoft's number one strength to date in combating the growing open-source and cloud computing paradigms has been the reluctance of business to adopt software and platforms that it cannot control. Google Apps is great, but the IT staff at the XYZ Corporation have no say over how that data is secured, backed up, or even deleted. That can be a very scary concept for business today.
Microsoft sweeps in to rescue the IT Department from its dilemma with Microsoft applications and platforms that are cloud computing based, in that they can be accessed from anywhere and data can be stored by users out in the cloud, but the servers and the applications run not at the Googleplex or at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters, but rather on XYZ Corporation servers where they retain complete control over security, backups, and other access. Multiple versions of products like these have been announced and are due in late 2008 or early 2009.
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Assuming Microsoft can box Google in as a provider of search results, they can slowly chip away at the currently insurmountable lead. By constantly improving their own search capability, it can close the quality gap. When the day comes that the perceived difference between Google Search and Microsoft Search is that there is no real difference, that's when Microsoft will strike. By leveraging the control of the desktop that Google so fears, Microsoft can redirect huge numbers of users back "home." Even if there is some sort of investigation, the court actions would take years. By then, Microsoft will have erased Google's lead. Then when it doesn't matter any more, they can agree to a settlement pay a large fine from its huge pool of cash and laugh all the way into the next couple of decades.
Earlier aticles in this series:
The Ongoing War between Microsoft and Google
- Microsoft versus Google - The Battle Lines Are Ever Expanding
- Google versus Microsoft - Google's Strategic Battle Plan - Part 1
- Microsoft Versus Google - Microsoft's Strategic Battle Plan
- Google versus Microsoft - Google's Strategic Battle Plan - Part 2
- Microsoft Versus Google - The Battle Lines Are SO Expanding
- Microsoft Versus Google - Microsoft Battle Plan - Part 2