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There's got to be a checklist. Somewhere in the Google lair, there has to be a list of ways for Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) to tick off Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) . One by one, Big G is checking them off with sniper-rifle precision.
Yesterday's launch of Google's Chrome, its Web browser shot at market titan Internet Explorer, is just the latest "anything you can do, I can do better" salvo with Mr. Softy in its crosshairs.
It's not the first check mark.
- Roll out Google Docs, providing cost-effective cloud computing solutions to the major applications found in Microsoft Office's suite of productivity software? Check.
- Gear up to launch the cell phone-browsing Android platform to nip Windows Mobile at the ankles? Check.
- Lure away a potential online advertising partner by signing a revenue-sharing deal with Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) as rumor mill chatter finds Google possibly going after existing Microsoft ad-serving partners? Check.
Microsoft loves to draw lines in the sand. Google loves to cross them and kick sand in Microsoft's face. No one seems to mind, since it's a bully being bullied, but Google is unlikely to stop here. Let's go over the few remaining areas for Google to go in its quest to beat Microsoft at its game, and its chances of going through with the check marks.
Are Sergey Brin and Larry Page ready to take on Microsoft's original operating system workhorse? Don't bet on it.
It's not that Microsoft isn't vulnerable. The company has taken hits this year -- perhaps unwarranted -- over its latest Vista incarnation. The timing couldn't be better to take the wraps off an operating system killer. I still don't see Google heaving entrepreneurial stones at Windows. It doesn't need to, really. The open-source Linux and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) are doing a fine job of winning over niche users.
Making a splash in this space also wouldn't come cheap. Does Google really want to broker the costly deals with computer makers to get them to install Brindows over Windows? It's better off simply cutting deals with PC makers like Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) to have them preinstall Chrome, since Google believes that the Web browser is the ultimate operating system with the most direct path to ad-supported monetization.
It was nearly two years ago that I joked about the Gbox, with Google following Microsoft's Xbox into the market for diehard video gamers. It's a notion that would have seemed ludicrous several years ago, but the gaming experience is no longer a distant cousin to Google.
Once Microsoft acquired in-game advertising juggernaut Massive, and Google followed by hooking up with the smaller Adscape, the game was on. Gaming is no longer about stand-alone consoles. Everyone is connected. Games are being delivered digitally. Relevant in-game ads are being served on the fly. It's on that last point that Google has a distinct advantage as the world's leader in selling online advertising.
Google can always stick to its knitting, offering Microsoft rivals a non-Microsoft alternative, but Microsoft's competition consists of two Japanese titans who will eventually want to broker sponsorship deals on their own. This may force Google into rolling out its own system, undercutting the competition because it's the best at developing an ad-subsidized model.
With young audiences spending so much time playing interactive video games -- and not on their computers -- Google can't ignore the audience, even with its very incomplete track record outside of online advertising.
Other drop points
Where else can Google gun for Microsoft? It can certainly step up to the plate and opt for a bunt single next.
- GooTunes -- A Zune killer, with ad-supported music downloads, is highly unlikely. There is no reason for Google to enter a market where Apple is truly dominant. The Zune gave it a good try, but it's also fading away. Until Microsoft is vanquished, and Apple becomes Big G's top target, there is no point in portable media players, even if Google should play a bigger role in digital music itself.
- GSafe -- Security software isn't as big a business for Microsoft as it is for stand-alone specialists like McAfee (NYSE: MFE ) and Symantec (Nasdaq: SYMC ) , but Google is likely to take bold steps in this direction if Chrome is a hit. If Google wants to own the Web, it's going to have to keep the streets safe.
- GMedia -- Windows Media Player already has worthy competition, but isn't it just a matter of time before Google takes advantage of its pole position in video-sharing through YouTube and inevitable forays into digital music to create a top-shelf streaming platform solution?
I guess what I'm trying to say is that as "in your face" as Google appears to be with Microsoft these days, it's really just getting started.
There are miles of check marks to go before it sleeps.
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