I’ve been seeing some comparisons of Google and Microsoft lately, with the word “monopoly” being bandied about. It seems like it might be time to do a bit of comparison for perspective.
Update: Microsoft Files Monopoly Complaint Against Google (The Register). Better coverage of Microsoft’s case (which seems pretty solid to me, but nowhere near as solid as the case against Microsoft in the 90s, and we all know how that went).
|Alleged Monopoly||Desktop OS (and Applications?)||Search (and Web Advertising?)|
|Using revenues from monopoly to damage/destroy competitors||Created Internet Explorer and bundled it in a deliberate and eventually successful bid to destroy NetScape||Created Android and gave it away to make more phones able to use Google Search and see Google Ads, incidentally perhaps damaging rival smartphone vendors (mainly Apple) — and possibly not helping Google in the long run.|
|And then…||Made it impossible to remove IE or even hide its icon.||Can’t think of any similar thing Google has done.|
|Did I mention…||Developed Access and bundled it with Office in a successful attempt to take desktop database market away from Borland. Tried similar things with Microsoft Money and Expression Studio with marked lack of success.||Arguably Google’s purchase of Writely which formed the basis for Google Docs was an attempt to replace Microsoft Office. It’s hard to get worked up about someone trying to break a monopoly by giving stuff away, though.|
|Oh and…||Allegedly introduced incompatibilities into its OS to damage reputation of rival software products (e.g. Lotus 1-2-3)||I’m at a loss here.|
|Used control of market dominating product to make rivals look bad||Inserted error messages in operating system application loader to make rival development tools (from Borland) seem less reliable||Either deliberately or incidentally reduces visibility of rival search sites in rankings because they’re “just sites with links to other sites”.|
|And let’s not forget…||Inserted error messages in Windows to make rival versions of DOS (from Digital Research) seem less reliable||Nope.|
|and…||Designed the Video for Windows installer to remap QuickTime’s files to make QuickTime seem less reliable||Arguably Google’s attempt to derail h264 support in HTML5 is similarly motivated, but it’s not even in the ballpark. The stakes, however, are much higher.|
|Created its own version of the JVM||Created its own version of the JVM which worked better than the original, and then added functionality designed to break its cross-platform mission.||Created its own version of the JVM which works better than the original.|
There’s all kinds of stuff Google is doing that might be considered “evil” outside this topic, e.g. the way it’s handling copyright in its effort to put all books online, or its attitudes to privacy, but these aren’t really anything to do with its being a “monopoly”. (And there’s a ton of nasty stuff Microsoft does that constitute normal operating practice in the software world that are egregious even when you aren’t a “monopoly” but even worse when you are, such as using file format obfuscation to create lock-in.)
On the whole though, I don’t think Google is in Microsoft’s super-villain league. (That said, if the founders of Google take their cash and spend it on curing malaria, or some similarly laudable cause, all will be forgiven, right?)