Microsoft Wants You to Think Google Is Creepy

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) is many things -- an operating system company, a developer of office software, a video game console maker, and now, a seller of apparel. On Thursday, Microsoft begun offering clothing, including T-shirts, hats and hoodies, as part of its "Scroogled" advertising campaign.

In many ways, it's reminiscent of Apple's anti-Microsoft efforts in years long past -- as Apple characterized Microsoft as uncool, so Microsoft is now attempting to paint Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) as creepy. Microsoft has a point, of course -- Google's entire business model is largely based on data mining its users to sell advertising.

But despite that, I think Microsoft is wasting its time. Although they might like the idea of privacy in the abstract, in practice, few will abandon Google's services because of privacy concerns. And if they do, Google isn't the only company in danger -- Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) knows as much, or perhaps even more, about its users.

Microsoft is right to go after Google
Microsoft competes with many companies, but Google stands above the rest as the single biggest threat. Google's Android operating system is set to supplant Windows as the world's dominant operating system by 2017, while Google is attacking the desktop by slowly turning its Chrome browser into a fully featured operating system.

Google is going after Microsoft's Office with its own competing Apps suite, and though Google admits that its apps are far weaker than Microsoft's offering, Google believes it can capture some 90% of the market by beating Microsoft on price.

Then, there's Microsoft's fledgling online ambitions, most notably its search engine Bing, which has cost Microsoft some $11 billion with nothing to really show for it. Microsoft's Outlook.com competes with Gmail, and Skydrive goes against Google's Docs.

Few people really care about online privacy
So it makes perfect sense, then, that Microsoft has invested in an anti-Google advertising campaign -- I just don't think it will be very successful. Users may claim to want privacy, but in reality, they're more than willing to give it up.

Quite literally, Facebook's entire business model is predicated on people's willingness to reveal their identity online. Friendships, relationships, work history, political beliefs, music tastes, a photo journal of their lives -- users turn over a staggering amount of data to Facebook. With that data, behavior can be predicted -- researchers have even shown that, by monitoring a user's friend network, relationship breakups can be predicted in advance.

More than half of all Americans use Facebook, and though they may limit what their strangers and friends can see, Facebook itself sees all. If Google is threatened by privacy concerns, Facebook, too, is certainly in danger.

But Google doesn't appear to be threatened by users' paranoia. When Google consolidated its privacy policy last year, merging its knowledge of users' habits across different Google services, Digital World Research surveyed a few dozen users about the change. While the majority of them said they were concerned about Google's privacy policy, almost 70% admitted that they didn't care enough to switch.

Indeed, Google's services have become ever more popular in recent quarters: Gmail became the most popular email service a year and a half ago, while Google's Chrome became the world's most popular browser last July.

Is Microsoft getting desperate?
Ultimately, I think Microsoft's advertising campaign reeks of desperation. As Windows fades in importance, Google comes after Office with Apps, and Bing continues to remain far behind Google web search, Microsoft appears to be losing quite badly in its war with Google.

Given that people are so willing to divulge intimate details of their lives to Facebook, privacy concerns are not going to lead to a widespread abandonment of Google's services. People may love to cling to the promise of privacy in theory, but in reality, they simply don't care.

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  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2013, at 10:38 PM, djtetsu wrote:

    I thought of this angle myself for Bing. Come as the cleaner, less info-tracking search engine. Unfortunately it will fail in that .. unless you do track, you will not make money.

    But with that said, you can do it long enough to divert attention and users away from Google and you will be given an opportunity to showcase whatever you got going... and unfortunately for MS, it's not much.

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2013, at 12:33 AM, techy46 wrote:

    Google is creepy, first Schmidt sits on Apple's board and steals their business idea, Google buys Android and turns it into the biggest ad-virus ever devised and gives it away while reaping in the ad revenue. Googel's just one click from extinct if people really woke up to the ad spam business model.

  • Report this Comment On November 22, 2013, at 12:35 AM, techy46 wrote:

    I just got a Asus T100 from Walmart to go with my Lumia 900, W7 notebook, WXP server and Xbox 360. I switch to Bing two years ago when I retired from IT knowing that Google is really the evil borg empire not Microsoft.

  • Report this Comment On January 16, 2014, at 2:37 PM, bugmenot wrote:

    Google *IS* Creepy.

    All Microsoft or anyone else has to do is point in Google's general direction. You don't even have to say the word "creepy" because any objective assessment of the evolution Google has undergone in the last two to three years absolutely screams creepy.

    Takes pictures of your house without your permission (check)

    Google scans your emails and sells information about what you do and what you like and where you are to any company willing to buy... and they do this whether you have an account with them or not. If you have a private email account and you send an email to someone who uses Gmail, they scan your incoming email and attempt to identify you and any record they may have on you - and they do this whether or not you have any accounts or agreements with them.

    Google exploited a loophole in Safari to track Mac users with whom they never had a privacy agreement - and did this in secret until they were busted for it.

    Google collected and stored wireless router information to connect people's online identities with their home locations without people's permission until they were busted for it.

    Google just bought a company that does smart home controls... so now they will know and potentially sell information about when you're home??

    Google is, or has in the past been, warned/sued by Spain, Canada, Korea, China, the EU, and private, corporate, and governmental sub-groups across the world dozens of times for invading people's privacy and breaching privacy rights spelled out in contracts and constitutions that have developed over centuries to reflect the cultures of the people who live in those areas.

    They have developed a model based on the profitability of Malware, Foistware, Spamware & Botware. They are tantamount to a keystroke tracker with built-in GPS. What is it going to take for people to understand what Google has become? Do they have to start sending people "Nigerian Prince" emails to get the message across? They are creepy. They are malware.

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