One-trick ponies and one-horse races
At one time, Microsoft used to be a one-trick pony. So did Google 🙂 For the longest time, even after they had started diversifying, Microsoft used to do mostly software. Sure they had Hotmail, but that seemed to be almost an afterthought more than anything else. Then came the revolution when they started getting into anything and everything – handhelds, mobile devices, pocket PC, smart phones. Of course, it was always mostly in terms of developing the OS for the devices and setting up the specs for each device rather than actually getting into marketing a device under their brand name. That too changed with the X-Box. That is where Microsoft stands today.
Google was slightly different (but then again perhaps not :p) They started off (at least appeared to but perceptions can be deceiving …) much more slowly but have suddenly branched out in so many bewildering directions at once. You had Google Desktop Search being added to the web search and then you had Picasa coming in to the mix. The next thing you know, wham! You had a whole bunch of Google services and downloads – Google Earth, Google Talk, Blogger, GMail, Froogle, Google Base and a host of others. This is in addition to the other stuff which is only hinted at or have not been completely rolled out yet – GDrive, Google Analytics, Google Calendar, Writely etc.
If you look at how the two companies have been progressing – MS has been building on their OS market and slowly expanding into new areas while Google has been building on their web presence and search engine superiority and have been moving in ever widening circles. It is inevitable that these two giants both end up in the same arena sooner or later. (And yes, everybody has been talking about this for ages and I’m not saying anything new here :p) Looks as if MS is finally ready to do something about the threat from Google though since they have come up with a whole series of "Live" services and tools which are web based.
There’s Windows Live Search – another attempt by MS to try to horn in on Google’s territory :p They tried it earlier with MSN Search but that didn’t seem to get them anywhere. This is supposed to be faster and better but I have no idea how since it’s just another search engine :p There’s also Live Mail, OneCare Live, Live Safety Center, Office Live and so on. Basically, MS seems to be going "web" full on. Of course, not having tested most of this stuff, I can’t really comment on it. One thing that I have tested though is Windows Live Messenger (WLM) and I must say that I kind of like it 🙂
I signed up for the beta because of the shared folder feature. Laurie and I send a lot of files back and forth – she edits my stories and I edit hers (mostly it’s the first :p) It’s a pain to have to open Explorer, find the file share, go to the right folder and then drop the file in and tell Laurie it’s there. I’d rather have the file automatically synchronized with her machine when I make any changes. This is what I thought the shared folder feature did. Unfortunately, it hasn’t turned out to be quite that :p When you add a file to a shared folder, WLM actually makes a copy of the original and places it in your WLM shared folder. So, after the first instance, if you change the original, nothing is synchronized with the other person you’re sharing the document with. I haven’t tried modifying the document in the shared folder itself but I have a feeling that the changes will synchronize then but that defeats the whole purpose of having documents in an ordered folder structure :p So not quite there yet …
The other annoying thing about shared folders is that if you enable shared folders – all your file transfers are done via shared folders. You can’t do an instant send the old way which is never updated again and do a shared folder approach only when you need it. It’s all or nothing. Other than that though, I kind of like WLM and it has performed without any issues on my machine so far. In fact, I’ve actually gone back to WLM and stopped connecting to the Messenger network via Trillian. Given that Trillian development seems to be stagnating, I might actually go back to individual IM apps again :p