Google is all over the map at the moment. Its going after Smart Grid, its going after Telephony with Google Phone, and it has a Cell phone offering that has been having trouble getting out of what appears to be an extended beta.
The company is struggling with productivity applications, trying to index all books and fight related anti-trust actions, scaring the hell out of folks in Europe with their mapping efforts, and unsuccessfully defending Google Search against Microsofts well-marketed Bing effort.
They are starting to look a lot like AT&T or Chrysler in the bad years. Those companies also lost focus and diluted their massive resources down to a point where the firms had to replace executive leadership or fail. You dont take on a company like Microsoft part time. Going after Microsofts crown jewels means, if they werent before, they are now in a fight to the death and Microsoft, who often also has a focus problem, will now focus on them.
No matter the opportunity, fighting this kind of a fight is not done casually. Yet Google seems distracted and lacks apparent coordination.
For instance, the product that is coming out on Netbooks this year is called Android, the product next year is called Chrome, and Chrome is the name of their browser. It looks like groups inside Google are at war with each other over naming, platforms, and control, even though it appears these are all facets of the same product.
Its almost like watching the players on a sports team fight with each other while forgetting they have a game to win. Their CEO Coach doesnt even appear interested in running the company anymore, as he too appears interested in other things.
Microsofts power isnt in marketing or even product. It is in their ability to get, hold, and to a certain extent, control partners.
Their key OEM partners are currently not happy with them and one of the reasons the Chrome OS is getting traction is that, unlike the MacOS which they cant get, or Linux which is a fragmented mess, what Google is offering looks distinctly different and potentially more attractive than Windows.
They would like to use it, much like they use AMD against Intel, as a way to shift the balance of power and get Microsoft to listen and better respond to their needs.
However, as AMD has discovered, having someone wishing you to be a bargaining chip and not a major component of their marketing strategy is not a particularly successful path. To become strategic Google would have to both listen and become subservient to the OEMs needs and create a level of loyalty that exceeds Microsofts. This seems unlikely given that Googles apparent arrogance meets or exceeds what Microsoft is currently demonstrating.
For instance, the first three companies to bring out Netbooks will do so this year using the Android branded offering. But Google has effectively made these offerings obsolete at launch by renaming the platform and attempting to differentiate strongly what will come in 2010 from what will arrive this year.
In effect they shot these partners right between the eyes before Acer and the rest could even launch their now lame duck products. This is not a way to build trust or loyalty.
This is not to say that Microsoft should sleep easy. On the contrary, Google is accurately showcasing what Microsoft should have in their keystone products and now lacks.
However, you dont go after any dominant vendor half-assed. This is like watching students who think they should get A's on their papers because they had a good idea, copied lots of stuff off the Internet, and turned in a 200-page piece of crap. In the real world you dont get an A for faking real effort.
This is an A idea followed by F execution and the market doesnt grade on the curve.