Behemoths, power mania and the looming cloud

Brian RuncimanWith great money comes great responsibility...with great software comes great money...with great web stuff comes a great cloud.

One of the commenters on my MS versus Apple post made a couple of excellent points.

Thanks Michael Brooke. He wrote: 'Microsoft is becoming irrelevant in today's age. (They have) quality around messaging and databases and their server OS is excellent in my experience. But companies get too big and lose focus.'

Yes - and with the looming cloud of on-demand distributed computing, behemoths like MS may well be left in its wake. They like to sell software, but increasingly the cloud demands that services are sold either via subscription or, in Google's case, just for the opportunity to stick some ads in front of you.

MS have had the seeds of their destruction sown by the rapid pace of technology change. A pace that they helped on its relentless way, of course. Ironic n'est pas?

The ironies build. MS and their ilk fight back by buying up smaller outfits who understand new trends better - in other words more agile organisations. They thus take ideas and tools, but remove the ability to deploy things in the agile way that would have been possible when they were administered by a smaller entity. Google seem to be doing a bit of this too and not just with small concerns either.

So a company gets so big and over-reliant on one or two area that it loses its edge, which it tries to get back by behaving like an over-reliant behemoth.

And of course the same will happen to Google (I expect). Many people have opined that Google will crash because of click fraud or privacy concerns or social networking. But as someone wrote (rather perceptively, but I can't find it at the moment, jolly old Google tools notwithstanding) it could just as easily be some brilliantly disruptive piece of tech (or suite of tools) from a current Google-ite. One who didn’t get the green light for their idea and eventually takes it elsewhere or pursues it themselves with a freshly procured batch of venture capital (I was going to say 'freshly laundered', but I thought that may convey the wrong image).

Because it is so enabling, technology seems to encourage a power mad 'we can do it all' approach in its adherents. The recent vogue for mashing and aggregating tech is so deceptively simple that it seems to encourage the business end of tech providers to think they can do things the same way, which is why MS have a history of buying up smaller software houses with new ideas, Google like to pursue nearly everything and even Tesco, a couple of years ago, launching their own range of software (whatever happened to that?).

They are by no means the only organisations who think that expertise in one or two areas will easily translate into many others - but they are nice big targets for me to mention.

Michael Brooke sums up, rather neatly: 'The lesson here is that you must keep focus on your core strengths, not try to be everything to all people.' He then cites Apple as a good template as they 'have a CEO who is a tyrannical in his pursuit of perfection starting from a small base - the computer, then iPod/iTunes now iPhone etc. When Steve retires Apple will suffer a fate not worth thinking about, but until that time Apple will run rings around Microsoft in integration and usability.'

Good points. And it'll be interesting to see what effects the nascent cloud will have all these protagonists.

Probably a bit more than April showers.

Comments (2)

Leave Comment
  • 1
    M wrote on 28th May 2008

    Microsoft have just announced ( that they are pulling out of their 'Live Book Search' programme. This was a direct competitor to the 'Google Book' programme. This is an extreme U-turn. Only last March Microsoft were heavily promoting this at the London Book Fair. Now they seem to have decided to leave the field open to Google. Perhaps this is the start of a policy to focus on what they know best and not compete in other areas already dominated by others.

    Report Comment

  • 2
    Snowhite wrote on 30th May 2008

    As long as I can think back (a good few years by now, trust me) large companies have always bought small companies delivering ideas and quality: Novell bought SuSE Linux (that was a slap in the face of the open source community, personally I hate Novell ever since); Corel bought Jasc Software; Adobe bought Macromedia; Mercedes Benz bought Kaessbohrer; BMW bought Rolls Royce; the list is endless. This seems the best way to get rid of competition, but also to save development money. I believe that software subscription services on the internet will be our future. Because... expensive and unaffordable for many, software is still the intellectual property of the company who invests money in its development, and warez downloads do not exactly further business nor development of new products. Internet subscription services seem to be a cunning way out of that dilemma, though not suitable for all products. Yes, Apple will greatly suffer when Steve decides he's had enough, like they did in the 2nd half of the 90s for that very reason. Now he acts as their CEO for a symbolic salary of $1/year out of the sheer goodness of his heart. It's his company, his lifeblood, his child and I don't see him ever wanting to quit until the day he leaves this world. Although I do not agree with their decision to tie the iPhone to only one provider per country. This may prove to be one of his few not so well thought through business decisions.

    Report Comment

Post a comment

About the author

Brian is Head of Content at BCS and blogs about the Institute’s role in making IT good for society, historical developments in computing, the implications of CS research and more.

See all posts by Brian Runciman

Search this blog

January 2018