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Who will own the search platform?

The January issue of Technology Review has published a lengthy and provocative write-up on Google vs. Microsoft by Charles Ferguson, the MIT PhD who founded Vermeer Technologies and then sold it to Microsoft. Ferguson argues that the battle between Microsoft and Google is possibly a winner-takes-all contest that will be won by whichever company builds the dominant search architecture -- the platform on which applications will be built by vendors and users. This will be especially critical as the search industry moves beyond the web into a wide array of new computing platforms, including a "sea of new consumer devices,'' he asserts.

"Architectural domiŠnance mints money,'' he writes, pointing to IBMās mainframe architecture, Intel's microprocessor, Microsoftās OS and Cisco's routers.

"The search industry is the next place in which a vast architectural empire could be built,'' Ferguson asserts. "Some portions of the emerging search space are now occupied by Google, others by Microsoft, most by nobody. But in the end, there will probably be room for just one architecture. Googleās idyllic childhood must therefore give way to a contest much like those Microsoft has fought and won against companies ranging from IBM to Novell to Apple to NetŠscape"

Ferguson offers an "architectural strategy'' for Google, adding, "I also suspect that if Google doesnāt do something like this fast, and Microsoft attacks, Google will go down. Its decline would take longer than Netscapeās precipitous descent, but it would be no less final. And at least during the second term of the George W. Bush administration, it is highly unlikely that antitrust policy would come to the rescue.''

(via Gary Price)

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