Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer offered some harsh criticism of Google, widely considered to be the software giant’s primary rival, in comments made to students at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.
A truly entrepreneurial company reinvents itself over and over again, according to Ballmer, but Google has relied on its ad-supported search business for growth during its 10 years or so of operations.
Its plans for future growth — namely to continue down the same path — are “insane” Ballmer reportedly said.
“They’re really just one business — a search and advertising business,” he said.
Calling the Kettle Black?
Ballmer’s comments raised a few eyebrows in the tech community, with more than one person pointing out the obvious: Microsoft built its own fortune over the years largely on one product.
It’s possible that Ballmer’s comments were prompted by professional jealousy. Google rose to prominence much faster than Microsoft did, and it now appears to be in a position to mount a threat to Microsoft’s bread-and-butter business, the desktop. On the other hand, Microsoft’s efforts to expand into search have been largely unsuccessful to date.
That said, there may be some validity to Ballmer’s assertion that Google is a one-trick pony, according to Charles King, principal with Pund-IT.
“But so what? You can be a one-trick pony if that trick wins you the race time after time,” King told TechNewsWorld. “As IT becomes increasingly complex, it is difficult for any one company to be all things to all people.”
That includes Microsoft, he said. “Microsoft is the largest software vendor in the world, and it obviously has large ambitious beyond Windows and the Office suite. That is not something to be discounted.”
Moving the Race Offline
There is a case to be made, though, that relying on online search for growth is indeed insane — if only because the model is still so new.
There is plenty of competition from Yahoo, MSN and other search providers for online ad revenues, and any one of them could conceivably leapfrog Google as suddenly as Google itself catapulted into prominence.
That is not to say the online ad model is a passing fad.
“It is very large and has grown very quickly,” Matt Booth, senior analyst with the Kelsey Group, told TechNewsWorld. “The next phase is to push the model into the offline world.”
Google is already moving in that direction with its radio and newspaper buys, he noted. “Everyone is gearing up to move the business into the next phase.”