It looks like the Google/Sony alliance is getting serious. And as I said last week, in a post about the rollout of Sony’s new anti-Kindle e-readers, it’s going to be very hard to bet against this tag-team powerhouse in any market they decide to enter.
The news from last night is that Sony is going to be putting Google’s Chrome browser in all of the PC’s that it ships in North America.
Sony started installing Chrome in PCs bound for North America in May, a Sony representative said. The deal was initially a test run for the two companies, but the test phase is nearly over.
The Sony deal marks an important step for Chrome into PCs. Launched almost exactly a year ago, the browser has had a rough time against rivals such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox.
Once again the Google/Sony alliance is strengthened, and the momentum of their combined flying wedge is aimed straight at Microsoft.
Sony is a dominant hardware provider in every segment of the entertainment market. For years, Sony’s PS3 and Microsoft’s Xbox have been engaged in a console deathmatch to see who will own the family room — and thus the hardware/software/content nexus of all media streams: video, audio, interactive, internet.
Google is a dominant, content-driven internet company moving into the software space. Having handily won the battle of the internet — which Microsoft didn’t understand (MSN anyone?) until it was too late — Google is now trying to move in on Microsoft’s dominance of the browser market, as well as roll out its own operation system (OS).
Making a Sony/Google partnership all the more dangerous is the fact that there is no overlap between the two companies. Sony is hardware, Google is software/data. Contrast this corporate harmony with Microsoft’s competitive relationship with Sony and Google — and just about everyone else on the planet — and it’s clear that Microsoft is facing the most daunting challenge of its relatively short, high-flying life.
(Because Microsoft chose to involve itself in every available market, and often did so using what are euphemistically called ‘aggressive business practices’, it has few allies, and little corporate goodwill or trust to draw on. Even its current alliance with Amazon and Yahoo — both much weaker than either Sony or Google — is defined not by common interests but only by common enemies. Historically, such alliances tend to be short-lived.)
In belated fashion, Microsoft has launched its own new search engine — Bing — which attacks Googles core business. Google’s Chrome OS is clearly a direct assault on Microsoft’s core Windows operating system business. Microsoft is also trying to keep Sony from dominating the home electronics market, in large part because that would mean Sony can dictate terms to Microsoft, or leave Microsoft behind and go with Google’s new Chrome browser/OS combo. All while Microsoft struggles to find relevance after its failed (and surprisingly meaningless) Vista launch.
And who can forget the announcement two weeks ago that Microsoft was joining Amazon, Yahoo and others in opposing Google’s recent court settlement of a class-action suit which clears the way for Google to offer millions of titles through its Google Book Service? Yes, the same Google Book Service that Sony is going to use to fill its new e-readers with content…
How does all this relate to web fiction writers? I don’t know that it does.
But the Sony/Google partnership is so perfect in so many ways that it almost creates a new kind of monopoly: one which spans two companies working in perfect synergy to achieve their collaborative goals. I don’t know how Microsoft fights something like that, and if Microsoft can’t that pretty much spells defeat for you and me if Google and Sony decide they want to do something that isn’t in our best interest.
Stay tuned. And as always: keep your eye on Apple. I think they have some very difficult choices to make.
— Mark Barrett