Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tale of two (three) platforms: a precursor

Let me finish this post as a precursor of the thesis writing... have been stalling for a while but today I feel like writing...

Recently, there are several blog posts that again try to dissect the trend and the collision between Microsoft and Google, and how the trend starts to shift to the GOOG side not only on the search front but in other domains such as enterprise app, web contents and cloud computing.  Here are the several that I recommend:

An anecdote: while Microsoft is far from bankrupt (which is a case made in by Don and MS Jobsblog), it is not interesting anymore.  I guess I only have around 1 month to trump whatever I dislike about MSFT publicly so please bare with me...

1. MS is still trying its best to court the developers, its technology just isn't what a programming prospect (a.k.a. alpha geeks such as Mr. Gate himself) would use to build killer app such as Ruby on Rail or facebook...

2. Well there's the naming confusion problem... but besides the unappealing name, and despite the efforts to court enterprises, MS app are just not the most elegant to use anymore.  The simplicity and elegance now belong to GOOG.  Besides the Windows and Office, it's difficult to find an average user who use other MS services. 

Email

IMHO, GMail still trumps Hotmail

  • in terms of mail organization (conversation-based and tag is certainly easier to read and retrieve),
  • free of banner ads that takes up some important spaces and quirks me.  Please...I'd rather have textual/relevant ad than display ads that keeps flashing and quirks my eyes... and... if you cannot get rid of it please... put it either at the side or the bottom instead of the VERY TOP!  Putting animated ads on top is just plain distracting.  You know... I DON'T NEED TO PAY to have good mail services, so stop making me pay!
  • ease of use (no keyboard shortcut in hotmail).  I guess hotmail is not designed by the ribbon team...

RSS Reader

I stick with MS Live even though I never use the Live Search (it's just not good enough).  I was used to start.com and then switched and got too lazy to reorganize the page.  Last time I checked... in terms of RSS feed MS Live is still better than iGoogle because I can add feeds easier.  But neither technologies get much attention... the talk of the town is Google Reader.  One day if I have enough free time I will do the switch.

Word processor/spreadsheet

While Google App is no where as competent as Office (and probably will never be), it is the most promising online office suite and with Google Gears in in maturity, the platform will gradually migrate from desktop to the cloud, at least for users like me who don't want to pay $500 for a full-fledge Office 2007.  Office 2007 will remains dominant... but the web platform will be lost.

Yes, it's all about the platform.  The control of the platform will determine the relevancy of both companies in the Web 2.0 era.  So far Google has the edge as being the command line of the Internet.  It is unlikely to change unless Microsoft builds a search engine that is not only as good but way better than Google.  While it's certainly not impossible, Google will remains dominant.  (Ask a friend which search engine he/she will choose: Google or Live Search.  I bet you the answer will be: "what Live search?  isn't it called MSN?  Well that's the answer Caryn gave me).

While it's certainly impossible to take on Google now, search is definitely NOT the platform... it's only a gateway to the web.  There are a few suggestions I have to win back the platform:

Browser

What is the reason the IE is most bloated (in terms of memory), slowest, and the one most prone to attack among the big three browsers.  For me, my IE 7 could never get pass the http://runonce.msn.com/runonce2.aspx site and it only shows error on page in the status bar.  Eventually I was fed up and I never used it (not even for experimenting) since it cogs memory and is slower.  Most of the ppl I know from school use firefox... that's certain an evidence of lost of alpha geeks...

Now Joel Spolsky has spoken up: Safari is just loads faster and although it's not perfect, but sure that by October Apple will release a polished product that can compete head-to-head with firefox .  MS has conceded the music market to iTune, but the lost of the browser market will be detrimental.

Now it is time to rally the best talents again for IE 8.  Make it easier to use and faster; make it less coupling with other MS products to make it more flexible; and... make it a cross-platform browser please... Linux is a small community but nevertheless a powerful one.  And if you believe IE is really better... why not give it to the Mac user who have been thirsting in hell? (for those who don't get the joke please see here)

Online app and synchronization

Yes popfly is nice, but it's time to step out of these small pilot project and build a killer app for the Web 2.0 world.  At least be prepared to release an online MS Office (not the Office Live) suite that contains sufficient functionality for normal users who used the pirate version of Office.  Given MS's experience in productivity suite, if the online version is not too entangled with other MS services (like Office Live or Sharepoint which... yea... I have NO IDEA what it's about even after some wiki-ing), and perform as well as Google App, then MS will surely win.  Yes it will mean some deference from the Office cash cow but you gotta take a risk to do some great.  It's again a dilemma between dominance and revenue.  Revenue is great but once you lose your dominance the revenue will eventually diminish... don't believe it?  Just look at IBM...

With Google Gears, the synchronization problem will be solved and the need for desktop application will diminish.  I won't reiterate the points, but MS still retains the two greatest assets will let it win the war: the browser and the operating system.  Solve the problem (the most difficult part), then embed it as a window updates.  Then release the API so that third parties can use the tool to develop synchronized online app.  Here is the platform!  Well I know it's easier to be said than done... but I gotta say it now!  Well no one reads the blog anyway... so let me abuse my freedom of speech while I still can!

Community platform

Unless one day WLS gets rid of the banner ad, blogger will still be my favorite blog tool.  Well WLS integrates better with WLW (and it seems I cannot post pictures on blogspot with WLW).  But blog is so yesterday.  Today, the platform is facebook.

Btw... here is my profile.  I'm not sure if anyone will see this blog and add me... but let's see.

My recommendations?  Buy it before it's too late.  Facebook has the potential to be the next platform.  I guess since Bill and Mark are both Harvard alumni there is a chance.  Certainly, MSFT can afford $6 billion.  Google is going strong and Yahoo! is looking to regroup.  Losing facebook to either of them or let it become another platform is a serious threat.

I have in mind how to extend the facebook platform... maybe another post.  (Not that anyone will care enough to read it and take it seriously anyway :D )

P.S. Well it took 2 hours... which meant a whole day of work.  I guess I will have to resume the thesis writing tomorrow :(

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