The Art of Redirection: Why Microsoft Should Be Terrified of Google+

There’s been an incredible amount of online commentary about Google+, the latest and greatest social platform, over the last few weeks. The vast majority has focused on comparisons to Facebook or Twitter or both, how Circles compares to lists, why it won’t work or why it will work. But I think we’ve all missed the point: for Google, there’s an awful lot more at stake than social networks. And it could be that Google is performing a smoke and mirrors trick with G+.

Take a step back from social media for a moment and view Google+ as just one element of Google’s strategy. What do you see? GMail, arguably the leading email solution available that works from the cloud. Google Docs, increasingly being used as a collaboration tool and again, stored in the cloud. The Chrome web browser. Android, the fastest growing mobile OS that is likely to take over from Apple within the next 12 months. YouTube, Picassa, Reader and Blogger, all of which work from, guess where? The cloud. Add in Google+ and you now have social networking, photo storage and sharing direct from a mobile device, and video messaging. And that’s what G+ is really about: integration and collaboration.

A few weeks before Google+ was launched, the company announced something else that seemed to slip through the net of public/blogger consciousness: the Chromebook. The concept behind this is of a new type of computer unlike a laptop or a tablet that is solely designed to connect to the web. It does nothing else except browse the internet, so it’s very cheap and it’s very fast. And it’s built on Google’s Chrome OS, which has been two years in development. Does Google want to compete with Facebook? Sure it does, but what it really wants to do is to own the cloud. And Android, paired with this suite of cloud-based products, is one hell of a convincing argument.

So who should really be worried about Google? Facebook has 750 million users; it would take an awful lot of traction to get that moving to Google+ and I think Google knows that. Facebook has time to tweak its system and its security, copy a few G+ features and improve its mobile offering. Twitter and LinkedIn, while not quite as secure, also have loyal user bases and have developed their own niches. Twitter breaks the news, LinkedIn is viewed as the ruling business network. Again, they should be safe if they adapt and improve, at least in the short to mid-term. Long-term, all three need to up their game. And the much-hyped diaspora would seem to be dead in the water.

But what of Apple and Microsoft? Well Apple is notorious for continued innovation and is already in the running for ownership of at least part of the cloud with the iCloud solution. The name might be predictable but Apple is highly regarded by hoards of loyal users and it’s difficult to see it coming unstuck just yet. But Microsoft…well, that’s a different story. Despite the step forward with Windows 7, the system is widely loathed. Microsoft hasn’t made any significant innovations in many years and, chiefly, is falling a long way behind in the race for mobile supremacy. The Windows OS is pretty horrible compared to Android and the iOS, and Microsoft is starting to feel like a dinosaur when compared with cool Apple and innovative Google.

If I were Bill Gates, I’d be investing some of my $56 billion fortune back into my company pretty sharp. What do you think?

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