Google is often seen as the anti-Microsoft. But with Google's Chrome OS announcement it's clear that the company cultures are a lot more alike than they are different. Microsoft's competitive DNA is embedded in Google's core.
Google is seen by many people as a smart, nimble company that quickly grew from upstart to industry leader, and is the place where the best and brightest go to work. Microsoft, on the other hand, is seen as slow and overgrown, a company whose best days are behind it.
How quickly they forget! Microsoft was once an upstart, the lean-and-mean competitor outmanoeuvring a more established, hidebound opponent.
It defeated the behemoths of all computing behemoths, IBM, and in short order owned the market for operating systems and application software. The best and brightest flocked to it.
Sounds a lot like Google, doesn't it?
Microsoft got where it is because of Bill Gates' unquenchable hunger for business success. At one time WordPerfect owned the word processing market, Lotus owned the spreadsheet market, and Harvard Graphics owned the presentation software market. Netscape had the browser market locked up.
But Gates wasn't satisfied with what amounted to a monopoly in operating systems. He targeted those competitors, and eventually Microsoft owned those markets as well.
Google may have a friendlier face than Microsoft, but it has the same unquenchable hunger to conquer virtually any market related to computing, and will stop at nothing to get there, in the same way that Microsoft did.
That's why it's launching the Chrome OS. It's not satisfied with what amounts to a monopoly over search. It wants to own the desktop as well, the operating system, and the applications that run on it.
If it has its way, you'll use a Google-powered computer to do Google searches, run Google applications, and store your data on Google servers. Your cell phone will run a Google operating system, and all of your phone calls, via landlines as well as mobile phones, will be routed through Google Voice.
You'll send instant messages via Google Talk. Every part of your computing and communicating life will be tied to Google in some way. The breadth of what it wants makes even Microsoft's old ambitions seem small.
There was a time when Microsoft was in the US federal government's and EU crosshairs because of what was viewed as anti-competitive behaviour. These days, the feds are after Google. Expect there to be multiple investigations over the next few years, related not just to monopolistic behaviour, but to privacy issues as well.
So Google may seem as the anti-Microsoft. In fact, though, Microsoft's competitive DNA is at the core of Google's cultural makeup.
Preston Gralla blogs for Computerworld US