Is google at the moment like Ballmer-era Microsoft?

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This blog has been making the rounds across the internet and does feel kind of spot on in some ways – https://secondbreakfast.co/google-blew-a-ten-year-lead; while Google has had some wins here and there over the years there’s been nothing quite on the level of their search, or gmail. The Pixel camera, while very competitive, hasn’t translated to commercial success for Pixel phones.

As someone said, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot”. I think that Google’s current situation ‘rhymes’ with Ballmer-era Microsoft in that it still continues to print money, but hasn’t quite nailed its new path forward. According to the hype train, commercializing AI should be its next big thing, we’ll see how that shakes out?

Comments (16)

16 responses to “Is google at the moment like Ballmer-era Microsoft?”

  1. minke

    Google is following in the footsteps of all software companies in that they keep striving to find the "next great thing" instead of just optimizing and improving what they've already created. Yes, there is a danger in the software world that some new angle and innovation will suddenly transform the landscape and leave you in the dustbin of history, and this terrorizes all the top people in the industry. They then frantically try to find the next great thing instead of just building on the great things that they have already built. Eventually, this dooms many companies because the next great thing is often a freak of nature, an accident that happens at the right time, and a one-off coincidence that can't easily be invented or created no matter how much money you throw at the problem. I get the feeling that Google is throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks instead of improving the stick on the stuff already on the wall.

    • anoldamigauser

      In reply to Minke:

      Google is an advertising company. Its software products support that by hoovering up our personal data (we are the product) to provide advertisers, their customers, with the ability to finely target ads. In that respect, they are doing just fine.

      The fact that we find those products useful just keeps us hooked.

  2. johnh3

    Im not sure they launched the Stadia gaming platform. And some gamers seems to like it. Soon a new TV dongle Sabrina. Yes the Pixel phones have been struggling some. But the Pixel 4a seems be ready for launch shortly.

    And they are big on smart speaker stuff etc..Chromebooks doing fine.


    I guess Apple is on top now. But Google are still in the consumer space in a relative good position.

    Im more worried for the future of Microsoft.

  3. wolters

    Well, I am in a Google / Microsoft Hybrid:


    Windows 10, Surface Book 3, Surface Pro X, Microsoft 365, OneDrive, XBOX (Game Pass Ultimate), Google Nest Max (and the other speakers), Google Assistant, YouTube Premium, YouTube Music, YouTube TV, Pixel 4 XL.


    With Microsoft's consumer struggles and Google's Pixel questions, I recently have given good thought about trying out Apple. But I think I'm going to try to stay the course foe a bit longer. I got excited when Microsoft made the surprise announcement of partnering with Samsung but that still seems half-baked. I do think Samsung makes the best Android Smartphone but I want the camera to be on par with a Pixel before I stay with them.


    I love Google Home Max and Google Assistant. I think Stadia is far better than people give it credit for. But like Microsoft, I am scared to embrace much because it gets taken away from us.


    I do get just as frustrated with Google's Status Quo as I did the Ballmer era Microsoft.

  4. codymesh

    No, simply because Google has kept quite a bit of their eccentric DNA in them and they still continue to pursue "moonshots" like Waymo self-driving, DeepMind AI, and internet baloons (?). Microsoft is a "software giant", but Google, by extension of its parent company (Alphabet), doesn't need to choose a lane. Google - which is right now an "internet company" - can actually just be anything they want it to be.

  5. luthair

    I would personally point at Apple, if you look at their product line over the past 5-10 years it looks bloated by internal politics and business to try to fill any niche.


    Margins may be good but IMO it has the hallmarks of a business guy running the show, not a product guy.

  6. jimchamplin

    Google and Microsoft share one thing, but to different degrees. Google wants big, high-profile launches. I think someone below called them moonshots. Once Google launches the product, forget it. It’s served it’s purpose. It’s why they get these things that everyone loves and configures their whole digital life around, only to drop it like a bad habit a year later.


    Microsoft has a follow-through issue. Get the new shiny, but once it’s there, it’s there. Forever. No matter what state it’s in, because the company doesn’t reward product maintenance so it’s baked into the culture. It’s why Windows is in the state it’s in.


    El Goog takes it to the extreme, constantly ending products that are being used because of the brogrammer mantra of “move fast and break stuff lollercopter” while MS just lets things languish, more like “lurch along and forget everything.”


    A good MS example: Dark Mode in Windows 10. They spent a ton of effort to “add dark support” to Explorer when in 2001 they introduced XP with an entire theming engine that touches every part of the OS. So... why don’t they use that to switch all legacy apps to dark? It’s old. It might need some maintenance.


    Google has enough examples of ditching things in the prime of life that no one can stand out as an exemplar.

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