Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer: Google “One-Hit Wonder”

Spotted via John Battelle, The World According to Ballmer at BusinessWeek has
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggesting that Google "may just be a one-hit wonder."

Well, it’s been a long-running hit, if so.

OK, the vast majority of Google’s revenue comes from ads. But the places those ads are placed are diverse:

  • On search results at Google
  • On search results elsewhere
  • On web pages
  • Now in RSS
  • And not even just paid text links

And the things Google offers:

  • Search of all flavors, a significant product
  • Blogging
  • Email
  • Photo Management
  • Web Analytics
  • Mapping & Satellite Coverage

That’s just top of my head stuff.

But skip the "one-hit wonder" comment. What’s more significant is Ballmer calling Google "the one nobody thinks can do any wrong."

If anything, Google is coming under more and more attacks for various things, in particular for being too dominant. Heck, that’s been going on since 2002, as I
wrote back then:

In particular, Google’s biggest challenge may be that so many people now see it as the only
search engine that "matters," a marketplace dominance in search that seems akin to that which Microsoft has with operating systems, office software and web browsers.

Despite the stronger competition from Yahoo and Microsoft, fears about Google have only grown, from where I sit. And that’s why the Microsoft comment is so alarming.

If they really believe people think Google does no wrong, then they fail to understand just how dominant Google really is. That’s because when you are dominant — like
Microsoft is in other spaces — there are plenty of people who see wrong in what you do. And plenty of people are growing to be critical about Google.

That’s the point Microsoft ought to be making. Ironically, Microsoft is a potential balancing force in the space, because Google is not universally loved and dissent is
growing, despite the vast legion of fans.

Postscript: Gary’s found the transcript of remarks here.

On the other hand, the only way really to hit a home run is to keep taking swings, got to keep getting up there and striking at the ball. Sometimes you miss, but really
successful innovation is a matter of probabilities and patience and tenacity. No one bats even close to a thousand, which is why the hot company of the moment, the one that
people really think could do no wrong, may just be a one-hit wonder. What counts is sustained, successful, tenacious innovation over time.

As you can see, Google’s not actually named. BusinessWeek did say it was a clear allusion to them, and I’d take it the same. But it could also be applicable to the general
idea that there always seems someone new coming up in any field Microsoft plays in.

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A screenshot of visual search on Pinterest. On the left is a picture of a copper angle-poise lamp, with the words 'Visually similar results' above it. Down the right-hand side are a number of pins showing similar lamps.
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