Google vs. Microsoft: Beyond PPC

Today, we’ll look at the broader interactive marketing ecosystem, the competition between Google and Microsoft, and how this competition may affect the future of targeted PPC (define) (and CPM (define) or CPA (define)) advertising. Someday soon, the SERP (define) will be the smallest part of your digitally targeted media buy. That’s why the broader battle between Microsoft and Google matters.

Microsoft still leads in productivity software for consumers and information workers, as well as in desktop operating systems. Recently, there’s been lots of buzz in the press about Google and its foray into Google Apps, which provides free Web-based apps (they eventually may be ad supported) that compete with the Microsoft Office suite.

While Google’s applications are usable, they won’t be a significant threat to Microsoft unless Google also starts delivering the functionality in downloadable client-side software, due to the limitations of SAAS (define).

However, Google could decide to emulate the alternative desktop office suite providers, such as Corel, with its Office Suite, or private-label a free version of the open-source OpenOffice. Then it would indeed be going head-to-head with Microsoft’s software-plus-services strategy, which envisions a world of software where you can be equally productive running applications and accessing data on desktop software or via Web services and the “cloud” (meaning the Internet).

The software-plus-services program is application and file interoperability and a set of applications that are agnostic as to whether you’re working on your desktop or via a Web browser. The name, though, is an unfortunate selection because many sophisticated techies don’t assume it describes Web services but professional services. This holds true even within the Microsoft partner community, which I had a chance to interact with at a recent Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). Even some Microsoft employees don’t seem to know what the Web services are and are therefore confused as well.

To minimize this confusion, Microsoft should consider coining — and therefore owning — a completely new phrase for applications delivered seamlessly, locally, and across networks while being device-agnostic (i.e., working seamlessly with PC, mobile, game console, and set-top box platforms). Trademark and rights issues aside (money solves these), I suggest the following terms (listed in order of personal preference) to communicate Microsoft’s flexible vision of the future, along with their current trademark/domain owners:

  • Anyware (owned by Secuware in Madrid)

  • Flexware (unused domain; the company may be dead)
  • Flexiware (owned by a domain speculator)

Microsoft won’t likely choose a clearer descriptor to illustrate this evolution in software to a multidevice, multilocation paradigm but will instead spend billions in media to educate the masses and its partners about software plus services.

I found WPC to be quite instructive. It reminded me that while I might be considered geeky in the media world, there’s a whole other world of technologists that keep the computers humming, the software stable, and the data flowing behind the scenes in every kind of business you can imagine. Those Microsoft partners help determine what business data is available within their client organizations and how it’s stored.

My key takeaway from the conference was there’s a massive shift in the way consumers interact with software, content, entertainment, and information, as well as how they communicate with each other. In this new ecosystem, data are the key that enables marketers to target consumers as they use their many devices. With data comes complexity, and success in the marketing arena will be earned by those who best manage complexity and are able to focus on proper execution over the next several years.

Thomas Edison once said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” Microsoft COO Kevin Turner modified this slightly: “Strategy without execution is hallucination” (and not for the first time). This reminder of what might seem obvious is very relevant to search engine marketers, as well as to the portals. There are lots of great ideas, tactics, and strategies out there, but prioritizing the ones that make a difference then executing them is critical for success.

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