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Natural Born Microsoft Killers

Google Mania

Take Google, arguably the hottest (and cockiest) company in the world. It's a hive of considerable intellect and creativity, built around a remarkably successful search engine. But Google isn't The Future of enterprise computing. It is to Microsoft and the IT establishment what has always been to Wal-Mart: a compelling alternative for a growing number of products and services, but no match in terms of breadth and depth.

Google's recent deal with Sun Microsystems was just the latest in a string of company announcements that were long on promise but short on specifics. Sun plans to offer the Google Toolbar as an optional download with its Java Runtime Environment, giving Google entrée to millions more Windows PCs. In return, Google said it will "explore opportunities to promote and enhance Sun technologies," including the StarOffice desktop suite, and will buy an undisclosed dollar amount and type of Sun servers. "This is a big deal," Sun CEO Scott McNealy said at the news conference, somehow resisting the temptation to call it a "really, really big" deal. "We, a long time ago, were pretty hot. We were the dot in dot-com. ... We want to get it back." Someone please tell McNealy that the dot, and all it stands for, is dead and buried.

Meantime, Google is mixing in other circles, having announced a week earlier it wants to build a Wi-Fi network for the city of San Francisco (though it has no such experience), and a week before that a plan to build a whopping 1 million-square-foot office park to research everything from large-scale data management to something called "bio-info-nano convergence." Google is also in talks to take a minority stake in America Online, muscling in on Microsoft, another AOL suitor.

What do all these moves add up to? When asked by InformationWeek in May about his company's long-term enterprise strategy beyond a nifty desktop search appliance, Google CEO Eric Schmidt replied: "We delight in the lack of such strategy." How cool. But imagine if Bill Gates had made such a statement. How flip.

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