In case you haven't heard, there are two companies called Microsoft and Google that really don't like each other very much. These tech behemoths are battling each other on a dizzying number of fronts in the consumer, government and business markets, the US court system and the court of public opinion.
Let's examine 10 battles Microsoft and Google fought against each other in 2010.
Google and Microsoft each accused the other of being monopolistic in 2010, with Google, for example, suing to the US Department of the Interior for favouring Microsoft in the bidding for a cloud-based e-mail contract, and Microsoft joining a group that's trying to block Google's planned acquisition of travel software company ITA due to fear that Google would dominate the online travel search market.
Just for good measure, Microsoft also testified against a Google project to scan millions of books and, separately, filed patent complaints against Motorola for its phones based on Google's Android mobile operating system. Microsoft has worked on softening its stance toward open source software, so the Android lawsuit illustrates just how seriously Microsoft is taking the threat posed by Google's mobile phone platform.
War for the desktop
Not content with dominating the search market, Google took aim at Microsoft's signature Windows operating system business by releasing a prototype version of the forthcoming Chrome OS. Google is so confident that it's reportedly dumping Windows for internal users, supposedly because Microsoft's OS isn't secure enough.
While analysts say Chrome OS is no Windows-killer, just yet, that doesn't mean Microsoft shouldn't be worried. If Google's vision of a "100% Web" world comes to fruition, Microsoft may have some catching up to do. But Microsoft's Tim O'Brien, senior director of the Platform Strategy Group, dismissed Chrome OS in an interview earlier this year, saying "The browser isn't the operating system. The operating system is desktop Linux and it runs one application and one application only, and that's Google's browser."
Speaking of Web browsers, Microsoft's Internet Explorer is still the most widely used tool for surfing the Web, and this year Microsoft took a leap forward with the beta of IE9, which is performing well in early HTML5 testing.
But Internet Explorer usage has been going down steadily nearly every month, while Google's Chrome is nearing 10% market share just two years after its release. With the arrival of the Chrome Web Store, Google is poised for even more growth in 2011.
No modern tech rivalry would be complete without accusations about putting users at risk of viruses and malware. In June, Microsoft accused a Google security researcher of putting Windows customers at risk of "broad attacks" by publishing code that exploits a zero-day vulnerability, after Google security engineer Tavis Ormandy published some proof-of-concept attack code related to a bug affecting Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Ormandy says he was acting alone, and that Google shouldn't be blamed. Ormandy also complained about Microsoft's tendency toward "bug secrecy," and said he would have been ignored if he had reported the problem without a working exploit.
Separately, Microsoft and Google have criticized each other over an IE8 security flaw that Google had been pushing Microsoft to fix since at least December 2009. Microsoft finally fixed the bug in October of this year, and appeared to make amends with Google.
In many of the battles fought by Microsoft and Google, Microsoft is the market share leader and is simply attempting to avoid losing users to the upstart Google. That is not the case in the smartphone arena. Google's Android has become one of the three major platforms in the United States, along with the iPhone and BlackBerry. Three hundred thoughsand new Android phones are being activated every day, better than Apple's iPhone.
Microsoft has completely revamped its mobile platform with Windows Phone 7, but it still has to convince consumers to buy the phones. So far, Microsoft isn't saying how many have been sold. The pressure is on: Microsoft's board of directors complained about "loss of market share in the company's mobile phone business" when it decided not to award CEO Steve Ballmer the full bonus he was eligible for.