It’s been a busy news week for the folks at Google and everything they do seems to cramp Microsoft’s style. First up was the leak on Tuesday (and announcement today) of the OpenSocial Web API for social networking applications. The idea is to have a common standard for developers so that they don’t have to start from scratch with each social network they support.
So what’s the Microsoft hook? In the words of Marc Andreesson:
Open Social takes the Facebook platform concept and provides an open standard approach that can be used by the entire web. Open Social is an open way for everyone to do what Facebook has done…
Yep, the Facebook with which Microsoft just signed a big advertising deal. Google also did their non-technical homework on OpenSocial by signing up providers of business social networks as well as all of the prominent non-Facebook personal social networks (e.g. MySpace, Friendster, Bebo, Ning, and Google’s own orkut) and a raft of top Facebook application developers.
Of course, Facebook is welcome to adopt OpenSocial too and may well be forced to, but Google has leveled the playing field to Facebook’s disadvantage. Still, a programming platform does not a social networking fad site make. As for Microsoft, beyond the advertising on Facebook do they have any social networking aspirations of their own anymore?
Second, plans for Google’s “Gphone” platform also leaked this week and the gist is that at least two major US cellular carriers are interested in phones running a Google MobileOS operating system based on Linux. The formal announcement is expected this month and the phones in mid-2008. The pony here is that presumably a phone OS will give Google a leg up on mobile applications and advertising revenues. While the mobile operating system market has a number of players, this makes it all the more crowded for Microsoft’s Windows Mobile and Microsoft’s own mobile ad aspirations.
Last but not least, today also brought the news of a joint Google deal with PC OEM Everex to provide a bargain PC ($200 at Wal-Mart) running the so-called “GOS, a version of Linux specially made to run Google applications like GMail and Google Documents.” GOS is just a tricked out version of Ubuntu Linux and despite the price and the power of Wal-Mart, I really don’t see this going anywhere for simple ecosystem reasons: a whole of host of common software applications and hardware peripherals aren’t going to work with it and thereby disappoint non-technical buyers expecting anything more than what already came with the machine. Still, I’m sure it’s a stick in the nest at Redmond.
So what’s the bottom line? None of these Google initiatives are going to slow down milk production from Microsoft’s cash cows any time soon, but the Open Social and Gphone ploys are squarely in the way of Microsoft’s new business aspirations in the advertising and mobile spaces.
Update: BetaNews is reporting that “Microsoft is now in talks with Facebook to integrate Windows Live ID into the quickly growing social network.”