Friday, September 28, 2007

What Would Fake Steve Do

Microsoft has been going hard after the search and advertising business for a while now, and they are getting more and more serious. Ed: see here.

I have not tried the features of Live Spaces yet, but it surely looks nice. Ed: Importing contacts from gmail into live spaces requires some gymnastics (maybe I will post about it later).

Google is firing back with their free applications, trying to get the Borg to duck. As Joel Spolsky explains,
"in infantry battles [...], there is only one strategy: Fire and Motion. You move towards the enemy while firing your weapon. The firing forces him to keep his head down so he can't fire at you"

I cannot tell why, but for the last couple of months I have been having this strange fantasy: I imagine that I am Steve Ballmer, and I scheme to bury big G.

Here are some ideas that I came up with:

  • give away infinite storage space in Hotmail, ad-free

  • ad blockers built right into Internet Explorer

  • use other apps (that Microsoft controls) as advertising channels (how about 3D ads in Halo?)

If somehow the boys in Redmond managed to do a better job at blocking spam, and gave Hotmail to everyone, ad-free, then you can kiss gmail good-bye. Of course, anything that is ad-free (such as all content displayed by IE, should it block all ads, period) would also cut into Microsoft's own advertising revenue channels. But they do not have to do it forever; they have other revenue streams, so they just have to block ads only long enough to put G to rest. Sure, it would be really sweet to block just the competitors' ads, but something in my gut is telling me that will not fly well with the other big G (ze Government).

And what about Firefox, then? Well, if 80% or so of the market sets a no-ads standard, Mozilla will have to follow suit. But who cares anyway about a browser that is being embraced by freetards, who are not likely to click on ads and buy stuff anyway (as pointed out by this blog, free software is for poor people).

I think 3D games are excellent contenders to web browsers for showing advertising, it would not be much different from real life. Picture yourself playing a shoot-em up match in a decor resembling Times Square. The only difference is that the content of the billboards (in the game) would be controlled by the mother ship. Ed: I was told today that it is already being done. That shows how much I know about video games.

The main problem may be getting businesses that are used to advertising in the browser space to transition to other media (game consoles, mobile devices, etc.) But in the long run, it will force the googlers to develop more client apps (so that they can show ads in them, rather than inside of the browser).

So it is all about re framing the game. If Google wants to distract Microsoft from the software business, fine: Redmond should create diversions that force Mountain View away from search.

It is an arms race, and I hope the Soviets will loose.

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