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Ballmer On Google – Uh Oh

By - March 18, 2007

Monkey Ballmer DanceLate last week Steve Ballmer gave an speech at Stanford in which he stated that Google is a “one trick pony” – that trick being search, of course. He also noted that Google’s staff growth is “insane” and called Google, in short, “cute.”

Lordy, Steve. That’s simply baiting the bear, isn’t it? Now, lemme think. For its first ten years (Google is nearly ten years old now), Microsoft was a “one trick pony” – that trick being DOS. IBM, the incumbent, most certainly saw you as “cute.” And as you piled on staff up there in Redmond, handing out options like it was crack, I bet someone gave a speech claiming you were “insane.”

I love the fire in the belly. But where’s the plan of attack? I’m guessing you have one. No, I’m sure you do. Can we hear it?

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  • Gerald Buckley

    The Microsoft “stragtegy” MUST have something to do with shedding it’s leadership as quickly as it can – fire, retire or attrition. Get small by hook or crook. Then we’ll show them we can move quickly. From the tenor of the SJMN piece he’s one foot out the door too.

    He’s calling them a one trick pony because MS does desktop, server, consumer elec and online. WTF!?

    Lessee… Google has their Desktop (widgets), they have their Server (appliance), they have their online (for the life of me I can’t quite figure out what that would be), and so they’re late to the dance with their MP3 player and line of clothing.

    Now, compare that Larry and Sergey actually GRADUATED from Stanford (instead of dropping out) and that their company is executing on so many fronts it’s insane. Shareholder value has been awesome for the GOOG… So, yeah, I can see where Mr. Ballmer might see a one-trick pony. Might it be in the mirror? Hmm…

    By his measuring stick then Apple must be a MASSIVE threat then. They’re also an aspiring four trick pony :) and their CEO is a college dropout. Has anyone told Mr. B about this little threat of a company in Cupertino yet!? Oh right, Allchin… bought a Mac (after he retired). I remember now.

    What a goob!

  • Tom B

    Stanford lowered its standards by inviting Ballmer.

    Beyond search, GOOG is delivering some titillating early-stage concepts: Sketch-up and Google Earth, to name two. Google Finance is VERY close to displacing Yahoo Finance on my browser bar. YouTube is amazing for people like me interested in classic blues and jazz performances. GMail whups Outlook’s tail 10 X over in usability. Blogger– where’s the Microsoft equivalent at all? GOOG’s office suite, though highly immature, is already way more pleasant to use than Microsloth Office. When enterprise discovers that outsourcing (encrypted) mail services to GOOG is cheaper than maintaining capricious Exchange servers, MSFT is over. MSFT will then have to hope the XBox eventually makes money someday…..

  • tobto.org

    You are absolutely right. What the plan? What alternative? I guess “one trick pony” will lasts until 3D Search Engines launch.

  • P Goldman

    As you pointed out, there is great irony in his comments: both companies started out incredibly focused – and they were the best at their core competency. Where they both have faltered, in my mind, is in the need to move into every possible other area away from their core. The need to do absolutely everything has made them lose focus, and obviously they execute some of their tangential businesses very poorly. It doesn’t seem to be a new trend – traditional companies have digressed from their core competencies for a long time – look at the combination of Kraft and Phillip Morris – but is that sustainable – or even valuable? Isn’t it time the egos be kept in check?

  • innerdaemon

    The plan of attack is empty chest thumping. There is no other plan of attack; if there was a plan, he would have articulated (or danced to) one by now. Notice that Ballmer’s tenure has been fraught with deprecation and ignorance (Linux is stolen code, Apple is cute, Google is one-trick pony etc.), but way short on creating a compelling vision for Microsoft.

  • Alex Eckelberry

    Actually, I don’t believe he referred to Google as “cute”. He referred to their non-search projects as “cute”.

  • Lee

    Time for Microsoft to see the writing on the wall. It has hit its peak and is on the way down. There are far too many other options than Microsoft to be bullied by them any longer.

  • JG

    For its first ten years (Google is nearly ten years old now), Microsoft was a “one trick pony” – that trick being DOS.

    Yes, that is true. But one difference between the first ten years of MS’s life versus the first ten years of Goog’s life is that Goog immediately and explicitly set out to throw as many ideas as possible against the wall, to become more than a one trick pony. Someone correct me if I am wrong, but Microsoft didn’t. Microsoft stuck with one thing for much longer. I’m sure there were little side projects here and there. But nothing like the Google frenzy of coming up with hundreds, nay thousands, of tiny new business directions.

    And yet, at the end of it all, Google still only has one product with any sort of decent market uptake (I am conflating search and adworse/sense).

    So which is worse, (Microsoft) only having one product after ten years, because they were not trying, or (Google) only having one product after ten years, because they were?

    I’m not favoring either GOOG or MSFT here. I’m just trying to level out the comparison.

  • JG

    Oops.. I wrote “adworse” above. I mean “adwords”. I swear, despite my usual grumblings against advertising, that was neither a conscious or subconscious slip. Look at the keyboard.. “d-s” is very close to “s-e” :-)

  • Brian Hayashi

    If there is one bit of hubris that MSFT perpetuated too long, it was the conceit that Microsoft Office could have beaten HTML as the dominant authoring platform for the Internet. That opportunity, if it ever truly existed, is gone.

    On the other hand, Google has a tremendous opportunity to pursue software as a service — literally becoming the next utility, after water and electricity, with search acting as the engine that unlocks all of the other vehicles of value.

    And yet — the jury is still out and Google could still manage to miss the boat. All of this posturing about Google is still reminiscent of Netscape, and as we’ve seen with traditional media, it only *seems* easy to knock off what seems to be a dinosaur.

    Say what you will about Ballmer, but my impression is that he is still a ferocious competitor after all these years…a somewhat different culture than what you’ll find at GOOG.

  • http://seoptimization.blog.com/ ~ SearcH EngineS WeB ~

    Microsoft has managed to thrive by acquisitions and integration and branding.

    In the past, Microsoft would offer to buy out software that would be an asset to their empire. If someone did not sell, they could market and strategize their way to the top (such as the case in dealing with Netscape browser)

    But MSN search must be an eye openning experience.

    It illustrates how difficult it is to compete by building from scratch.

    Users want relevancy, none of the usual marketing strategues or tactics will work if the relevancy is not there.

    And even Google is facing some of the same revelations. Look at how badly Google News is doing compared to Yahoo News. Also, Google Base and Froogle aren’t exactly eliminating the competition.

    It appears that Search is the purest example of the Survival of the Fittest

  • =bg=

    developersdevelopersdevelopersdevelopersdevelopersdevelopersdevelopersdevelopersdevelopersdevelopersdevelopersdevelopersdevelopers…..no, wait, that’s another speech. Never mind.

  • Organized chaos

    One key point where Ballmer is VERY correct is in the growth and lack of any structure at Google. Having now seen clearly into this organization (if you can call it that), they are tripping over themselves to support existing product while launching in multiple directions. Beyond search and Ad Words / Ad Sense, nothing they are doing gets traction. They are adding headcount wickedly quickly. It seems the only way to grow will be through smart acquisition (outside the core business). So, Youtube was smart. With engineering types leading product decisions exclusively and putting out items removed from search, they will not succeed. However, they have the benefit of a currency in the stock and corp development to cover this glaring problem until core growth begins to decelrate in a few years. Make the best of the next three years Google…