Packet Rat: For this superpower battle, sit back, relax'and keep your head down

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

Once upon a time, a Silicon Valley start-up company created some software that changed the Internet. It had lots of money, some heavy-duty adult supervision, and a strategy to make the desktop operating system obsolete. This, obviously, got Microsoft very upset. And a veritable war began between the upstarts and the Redmond Hegemony.

The year was 1997. Or 2005. Take your pick. Because history is repeating itself as Google attempts to achieve what Netscape could not. And the Rat is again doing his best to stay out of the way.

The latest reports from the Rat's intelligence agents seem to indicate that the Google-Microsoft War is escalating rapidly. So far, Microsoft has staged an interesting response to Google's advances'including lawsuits (over Google's snatching of Microsoft vice president Kai-Fu Lee) and reorganizations. But the cyberrodent is sure there's more going on behind the shuffling of the deck chairs on the SS Gates.

'Mark my words,' the wirebiter warned his colleagues as he downloaded another cup of coffee.
'Steve Ballmer is building a secret army right now somewhere in the hills above Mountain View.'

'When billionaires battle,' he rambled on, 'it's best to find someplace else to play. We can just plan on sitting on our current Internet and desktop software investments until one of them gets their air supply cut off.'

No, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Google CEO Eric Schmidt won't be fighting it out underwater, ripping off each other's masks like in some climactic Bond movie submarine battle. But let's just say there's a lot more going on than some lawsuit over Google stealing away Microsoft's R&D people.

'I bet Larry Page is getting ready to Google-bomb Redmond so bad that everybody looking for directions to the Microsoft campus will end up in Idaho,' the Rat mused, referring to Google's co-founder.

Not that the whiskered one gets no thrill out of watching the second Clash of the Internet Titans installment. It's just that he can't see any reason to get behind either one of the combatants. Because, let's face it'while Google may be following in the path of Netscape, Google is no Netscape.

'I met Marc Andreesen,' said the Rat. 'Marc Andreesen is pretty darn tall. Sergey Brin [Google's other co-founder] is no Marc Andreesen'at least if you're playing pick-up basketball.'

For one thing, Google is making a boatload of money. While Netscape certainly started off looking good, it could never claim anywhere near the annual sales numbers of the searchmeisters at Google.

Netscape was also primarily a network plumbing company. Google has gone way beyond being just Web infrastructure and is now looking to take the battle into Microsoft's own back yard with Web-based automation software.

The Google-Sun Microsystems joint press conference in early October was an incredible non-event event in terms of what was actually announced. But it soon became clear that Google is planning to use OpenOffice as the basis for something that is already making every white hair left on Jim Allchin's head stand on end.

But the furry one has his suspicions about the impending, recently announced retirement of Allchin, Microsoft's Windows development chief. 'Che Guevara 'retired' just before he went off in disguise to try to start a guerrilla war in Bolivia. I wouldn't be surprised if Allchin showed up in a few months at Google disguised as Kai-Fu Lee.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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