Google, Microsoft Invade Enemy Territory: Who Wins?

Microsoft wants to be Google. Google wants to be Microsoft.

Well, sort of.

The tech giant known for its PC operating system wants to dominate search, and the dominant search provider is building a PC operating system. It’s Bing vs. Google Search; Chrome OS vs. Windows.

Each behemoth is gunning for the other guy’s turf, obviously. But which stands a better chance of pulling it off? Let’s do a quick point-counterpoint comparison:

Google, Microsoft Invade Enemy Territory: Who Wins?
Advantage Google: People are lazy. You’ve tried Bing. It’s pretty good. Its first page of search results -- those 10 blue links -- are similar to what Google Search delivers. Bing’s previews of Web content, fast answers to common questions, and home page artwork with the educational links are all pretty cool. And your cousin the porn connoisseur really appreciates its video search preview feature. Still, you’re sticking with Google Search. Why? Because despite its bells and whistles, Bing really isn’t that much better. Besides, you’re comfortable with Google, which delivers the information you want and is easy to use. Unless Microsoft comes up with a more compelling reason for people to switch to Bing, it’ll remain a search also-ran.

Advantage Microsoft: Chrome? What Chrome? The Chrome OS is vaporware. Google’s computer operating system won’t debut until late 2010, and that’s an eternity in the tech world. If Chrome OS is delayed until 2011 or beyond -- or if it truly stinks out of the gate -- it could die a fast death. By comparison, Bing is a working product that’s already achieving some degree of success. According to Web analytics firm StatCounter, Bing yesterday topped Yahoo Search in market share for the second time since its June 4 launch.

Advantage Google: I know this challenger; I’m not afraid. You’re shopping for a new notebook. Some models run Windows, while others run something called Google Chrome OS. Since you already use one or more Google services -- maybe Gmail, Google Apps and, of course, Google Search -- you decide to give Chrome OS a try. You’re not freaked out because you know the OS provider, which isn’t some mysterious startup you’ve never heard of. If the choice had been Windows vs. Ubuntu? Well, advantage Microsoft.

Advantage Microsoft: Redmond is one tenacious little monkey. Tech industry old-timers will recall that the first several incarnations of Windows in the mid-to-late 1980s were pretty awful and didn’t sell well. Despite public indifference and critical barbs, Microsoft kept working on its graphical DOS shell and finally achieved success with Windows 3.0 in 1990. Since then it has shown similar tenacity with other programs and services—with varying degrees of success. MSN, Microsoft’s answer to AOL, never made it, and the verdict is still out on Zune, Redmond’s response to the iPod. And Bing is really just a rewrapped version of Live Search, isn’t it?

What do you think? Does Google or Microsoft have the better shot at succeeding at the other guy’s game?

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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