How rich, then, that Google is realizing Microsoft's biggest ambition of putting information at your fingertips.
CEO Eric Schmidt no doubt recognizes the delicious irony. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, he competed against Microsoft while at Sun and Novell. But each time he was the underdog. Now the shoe is on the other foot.
Google earlier this week rolled out even more additions to its already impressive inventory of Web offerings and shows no sign of slowing down. If you're Microsoft, this is bad news in bells. And if you're Yahoo, this is time to sit up and take notice that you're next.
Google's newest feature lets people personalize their home pages with different modules that they can drag and drop across their page. The first run of content providers includes the BBC, The New York Times, Slashdot and Wired, but more will follow. Full RSS support will later be included, and advertising will dot the home page. My Yahoo, meet My Google.
Web surfers obviously like what they see from Google, because they keep returning for more. In the roughly nine months that it's been a public company, Google's been knocking the ball out of the park each quarter. The stock price is headed toward the outer rung of Jupiter, and you've got to wonder whether these guys will ever stub their toes.
Excuse the rhetorical exaggeration. But if there's one constant in the technology business it's that the industry is in a state of permanent flux. So history suggests Google's tumble will come as well. But what beats me is when--next month, or next millennium?
Unlike the phony management teams that stunk up the pre-bubble days, Schmidt and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are hard-core techies with a passion about their business. What's more, they have figured out a way to flourish within an odd triumverate that I thought would have fractured long ago.
Microsoft's now trying to make up for lost time with new search features and promises of more when the Longhorn operating system arrives late in 2006. I would never underestimate Microsoft, but Google's biggest enemy remains itself.
At times, the company's appetite has overtaken its good sense--Google's tone-deaf handling of the public uproar over Gmail last year being the most telling example. Privacy advocates flipped out when they learned the company was scanning the content of e-mail messages in order to serve up targeted ads. So much for Google's pretentious-sounding "do no evil" dictum.
Even if it was a tempest in a teapot, management's grudging response reminded me of Intel's painful mismanagement of a famous
Charles Cooper is CNET News.com's executive editor of commentary.
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