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Monday, May 26, 2003

Why Google's Success is (Partly) Due to Microsoft

By now, the story of Google's success is legendary: Combine one part "revolutionary link popularity algorithm" with one part "distributed computing infrastructure built on thousands of regular PCs running open-source server software," and you have the ingredients for a ridiculously fast and relevant search engine beloved by millions worldwide.

So why do I say that Google's success is somewhat thanks to Microsoft? Simple -- Google's infrastructure would not have even been possible with Microsoft Windows server software, which is god-awfully expensive (depending on the terms, it can cost up to $2,000 per license), and SQL Server, Microsoft's industrial-strength database software costs about as much.

Google proved that it's more efficient and cost-effective to have lots of normal computers with open-source server software that distribute a server load rather than a few gargantuan, expensive supercomputers running enterprise server software from the likes of Microsoft or Sun.

If you do the math, you can see that it's prohibitively expensive to have thousands of computers running Microsoft server software, and thus, Google probably would not exist if Microsoft's products didn't cost so much. Lesson to Microsoft: Maybe you could make (even) more money if your products weren't so expensive. This is one of primary driving forces behind the burgeoning success of Linux.

On a related note, I recently had an engaging e-mail conversation with some e-colleagues about why I believe Microsoft is a monopoly that will one day be broken up into smaller companies by the U.S. government. They argued that there's plenty of competition in all sectors of the software industry, and that this proves Microsoft is not a monopoly.

However, even though Linux and other open-source players are nipping at Redmond's heels, Microsoft has something these guys will never have: a $30 billion war chest. Yes, $30 billion. I believe Microsoft is allowing Linux to develop into a competitive threat in order to get the feds of its back. No matter how successful Linux becomes, Microsoft simply has too much money in the bank, and therefore can do almost anything to stave off upstarts, like giving away its server software if the smaller guys get too big.

It's simply a matter of when, not if...

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




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