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The Technology Torch Has Been Passed May 22, 2010

Posted by Peter Varhol in Software platforms, Uncategorized.

I’m back from vacation, and lo and behold, technology didn’t stop moving forward without me.  Take, for example, this article from Gizmodo (and reposted on MSNBC), which describes how Apple and Google are battling for supremacy in computing, and about how Google has now gained the inside track in this battle.

There are several things that I can say about this.  First, I dislike technology competitions being positioned as battles in an ongoing war.  It’s a poor analogy, and it makes it seem as though technology vendors are more focused on what the competition is doing, rather than what customers want or can use.  And the comparison with war, though used over and over again over the years, is simply wrong.

However, that’s the nature of technology reporting, to set something up as a battle.  It is misleading more than anything else.  It is true that the market leader often ends up with the lion’s share of business, but competing vendors rarely if ever play out their competition directly against each other.  The market and customers make that call, based on product, pricing, marketing, and a myriad of other factors.

Another and more significant point is that this kind of article gives a stark picture of how far Microsoft has fallen in the world of tech today.  Why, you may ask; it doesn’t mention Microsoft at all?

That’s just the point of course.  A decade ago, you couldn’t write an article like this without positioning Microsoft as the power to determine whether or not a particular vendor or technology would be successful – would Microsoft let it happen?

I rather respect Microsoft, for its longevity, and its single-minded pursuit of the adequate, if not the great.  The company has done some good things (and plenty of not-so-good things).  Its people are largely smart, engaging, and likable.  It largely defined computing as I have come to know it.  If it is not an innovator, it has at the very least defined de facto computing standards for almost twenty years.

And to some extent Microsoft is an innovator.  Windows Mobile (or whatever they are calling it this season) has been around since before Symbian, and was mature before Apple or Google gave any serious thought to mobile computing.  Microsoft dabbled in hosted services with Hotmail (granted, it was one of its many acquisitions) before it was trendy.

But computing is in the process of moving on, and Microsoft is poorly adapted to making that move.  I have speculated in the past on this blog as to why I think that’s the case, and I can easily come up with additional reasons.

Microsoft’s position rather reminds me of publishing, the industry I have been in and out of for many years.  When capable people, leaders in their industry, can best defend their tradition by fiat – “A paper magazine feels good in my hands.”

Just so.  Microsoft can shout to the heavens that desktop computing is fundamental, but I doubt such arguments can be made rationally.



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