If we learned anything from Microsoft’s bombshell announcement that spending was going to go up a lot more than Wall Street’s Finest ever dreamed, it’s that Microsoft’s business model is not what it used to be. The operating system monopoly that allowed 30 cents of every sales dollar to flow to net income is, in my view, no more.
This is due in no small part to Google (GOOG) and its spend-like-there’s-no-tomorrow mentality. Google keeps new products coming so quickly that Microsoft—chained like Frankenstein’s Monster to the dungeon wall that is Vista (the next generation Operating System Formerly Known As Longhorn and soon to be renamed Long Lost, Lost Horizon, or something more appropriate)—has no chance to out-innovate the kids in Mountain View.
There is no doubt that Google has been cranking out new products at a fast and furious pace. Paul Kedrosky, however, thinks it is too fast and not finished:
Apparently Google is announcing a number of new products next week, including Google Health. I wish it wasn’t. Not, however, because I have anything against health-related services — a friendlier and faster Medline would be a dandy thing — but because I want ever-scattered Google to sit in place for a minute and finish crucial features in existing products.
Examples are myriad:
* Where is Edgar search in Google Finance? Not done yet.
* Where is Exchange sync in Google Calendar? Not done yet.
* Why is three-year-old Gmail still in beta?
* Why is Google Talk still tottering around with a fraction of features?
Enough already. Google needs to get on some 12-step no-new-service program and finally get something past the 80% complete mark, or at least the 50%.
So we have the battle of the tech titans: rapid-pace new product development of products that don’t quite do what you want them to versus endlessly delayed product releases. Which side are we on?
Actually both. We have written before that we think Microsoft has to get things right. But we also think that there needs to be an experimental company like Google (or anyone out there who cranks out a useful tool.) The combination of the processes helps create a more dynamic overall marketplace that benefits everyone.
That is not to say that Microsoft can’t get nimbler, or that Google can’t develop more polish. We think that both companies can and should successfully imitate parts of each other’s processes. It’s just that unless there is that other model out there, it is hard to copy it.