Cheap imitations of tech products: killing the goose that lays the golden eggs

A small number of organisations are making it their business to copy other people's products and attack the companies behind the original idea. It's a dangerous trend, but some organisations, including certain exceptionally powerful and influential corporations, have adopted it as part of their business model. It's happening with increasing frequency, so I decided to create this page as a warning and to help me keep track.

Through prolific marketing and PR, combined with the skilful nurturing of fan communities, these organisations have succeeded in persuading a small but disproportionately vocal minority of people that what they're doing is cool and trendy. In innovation there is always element of incorporating previous ideas, but the organisations I'm talking about here are stretching this delicately-balanced principle far beyond its breaking point.

Let's take a closer look at a sample of well-documented cases in which certain products and companies are blatantly copying other people's products and seeking to destroy the organisation that came up with the idea. (There's a list of well-documented examples below.) Fortunately, in most cases so far, the impostor has failed, generally due to incompetence, despite investing astronomical sums of money on developing the product and trying to force it down our throats. The hype and buzz surrounding some of these product launches has been excessive, to the point of being ridiculous. Evidently, certain organisations underestimate the ability of ordinary consumers to see through the hype; they might be the hottest thing in the media and on particular tech blogs, but that's as far as it goes.

A major ideological war is raging in the tech industry, and thankfully the good-guys are winning. If the bad guys won the war, the companies behind some of the most important innovations in the history of human civilisation would be metaphorlcally lined-up against a wall and shot, and if you'll permit me to invoke a wise old metaphor, it would be like "killing the goose that lays the golden eggs". In other words, if we lose some of our most important innovators, what will there be for the imposters to copy next? In the future, people will be cautious about emerging from the ashes with a new original idea. What incentives are there to invest your time and money in a new innovation, within an environment where predators are lurking ready to steal it? Cheap imitations are like a terminal disease from which the evolution of technology would never recover.

The consumer has the power to choose, but they must do so responsibly. There will always be a corrupt underclass of consumers who selfishly buy to suit themselves, whether or not it's morally or legally wrong. For example, there will always be a black-market in counterfeit designer brands, along with tobacco-smuggling, people-trafficking, drug-dealing, software piracy, terrorism, violence, murder, etc, and everything else associated with the underworld which profits most from corruption. The rest of us, as responsible citizens, must address the balance by bearing the burden of our moral and legal duty to do the right thing.

Google: the arch-villain of the early tech age?

Google is the worst offender in all of this. What really sets Google apart, though, is how aggressively and underhandedly they subsequently attack the company whose ideas they've taken.

Google has been caught manipulating search results to disadvantage competitors and critics. The EU is investigating, but Google is offering a cash settlement to avoid going on trial. Unsurprisingly, Google wants to settle "out-of-court" -- which would stop the public getting details of exactly what they have been doing. The EU is probably corrupt and bloated enough to take the easy option and accept the pay-off. They've submitted to Google's lobbying in the past.

More than anything, Google's staff seem to enjoy publically criticising Microsoft. They can dish it out, but can they take it? This is one of the key reasons why I like to keep a watchful eye on Google.

Let's take a look at some key examples of Google's copying other people's stuff:-

This list by no means not exhaustive, obviously, it's just a typical sample. What Google can't plagiarise, they buy instead, investing that vast wealth accumulated from search. Acquisition is not the same thing as innovation. Google employees have propagated the myth of their innovation for so long, they've begun to believe it. (For deeper insight, a perusal of Wikipedia's list of Google's known acquisitions complete with the timing and official rationale in each case, is highly reccomended.)

Other examples

[Note: I will keep this list under continuous review and improve it and update it as necessary.]

Where is Microsoft in all of this? Why don't they make like Google and try to buy Facebook? There's no need. They own a share of Facebook, and Facebook's search is powered by their Bing search platform. But unlike Google, Microsoft doesn't feel compelled to plaster their logo on a cool product in order to get a piece of the action. This subtle, steady strategy is less visible, and generates less hype. And this is what I think really defines Microsoft and almost everything they do: there's no excitement or fanfare, it's just there, and it does the job well.

Microsoft's style and culture constitutes a serious disadvantage against the likes of Google and Apple. Microsoft's marketing and PR is chronically pathetic, and its staff are reluctant and consider themselves too professional to dis or criticise their commercial rivals. This pathogenic professionalism is endemic -- right down to individual employees I speak to, and even exists behind closed doors. I must admit, deep-down I think I actually respect it. The opposite is true at Google and Apple. (I won't name names). For employees of Apple and Google, it's standard practice to attack Microsoft online and in person. I'll illustrate this with a typical anecdote from late last year. We invited a guy from Apple into the office to do a talk on Safari, and he took every opportunity to make jokes and digs about Microsoft and IE. One of his slides consisted of logos for every major browser inside a box labelled "HTML5" and outside the box was a solitary IE logo. Corporate propaganda is insidious. Ironically, this occurred just a few days after the W3C had declared IE9 the most HTML5-compliant browser! Let's be honest, when the previous version of IE was launched, other browsers didn't support HTML5 either -- critics of IE love to compare new browsers with old versions of IE, but it's a little disingenuous to do so. Watching Microsoft vs Google is like putting a tame monkey (Microsoft) in a cage with a hungry wild dog (Google) and seeing the fight. The monkey isn't doing much in the way of attacking, but that doesn't mean the dog is superior in any way. Metaphors are such a beautiful way of articulating what's going down in the tech industry sometimes! ;)

04 February 2011

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You don't have a clue what you are talking about. I'm guessing that the reason you don't have any comments is that you can't find anyone to agree with you (except left-wing radicals & MS executives) and that you delete any post that points out your blaring mistakes. Do you even know what open source means? Gmail like hotmail and yahoo? Wait... what was that whole AJAX thing? Did you know that both hotmail and yahoo COPIED GMAIL? How about MS BING directly copying search results from Google?

Your just another hate-yourself and the world "Down with Corporations" Liberal.

I give this comment about 5 minutes before it is deleted because you disagree with it. That is, after all, people like you do with opposing opinions.

Tim Acheson (04 Feb 11, 17:15)

I respect your wish to be anonymous, although I would encourage people should use a real email address when commenting.

"I'm guessing that the reason you don't have any comments is that you can't find anyone to agree with you..."

Isn't that a little disingenuous, when you presumably know I've only just published this? I published it today, just a few minutes ago, during a late lunch break! You commented within minutes of me publishing and tweeting this.

Do you even know what open source means? [Yes.] Gmail like hotmail and yahoo? Wait... what was that whole AJAX thing? Did you know that both hotmail and yahoo COPIED GMAIL? How about MS BING directly copying search results from Google?

I agree with what pretty much everything you're saying. It doesn't make anything I said less true.

If anything I've sais is untrue, I would welcome anybody pointing it out so we can examine in more detail. If not, it's reasonable to continue to assume that everything I wrote above is true. :)


I can accept you're an MS fan boy of the highest proportions and can smile about your obsessive regard for products that are sometimes excellent, but others that are sometimes poor.

However in this post you're clearly so far up their bottom that you are unable to see the wood for the trees.

Personally, I have a Vista Laptop, respect the Xbox a lot, use an iPad tablet and an Android phone. In software I use Office, Google Docs, Gmail and Thunderbird. I'm also aware each of the things I use have pros and cons.

I hate to break it to you but MS, whilst doing some great stuff, definitely isn't perfect and has seemingly done most of the things along the way that you attack Google for doing!

Your two key issues are that they've acquired things rather than building them themselves. Which, er MS has done with products including.... Powerpoint, Groove, Hotmail, Internet Explorer (based on Mosaic) the list goes on.

The other issue is that they've moved into sectors where other products have existed. What, unlike Xboxes, MSN, MSNBC etc etc

Personally I don't have a problem with either company doing these things - but you can't attack one and not that other.

What your post's about, but you don't mention, is the fact that Bing has been caught red handed using data it's collected from its users' activity on Google to fill in gaps in its own search product - Bing.

Cloning a product is one thing, throwing resources to move into a market is another, but, i'm sorry, implementing algorithms that stop you needing to find your own technical solutions is a terrible cludge that they've been caught red handed at doing. It's something i'd expect of a start-up, not one of the world's biggest software companies.

Not that this comment will, of course, affect your fanboy enthusiasm.


This seemed to have disappeared, I thought according to your about page: I encourage anybody out there to contact me or post a comment on any topic.

so....

[Note: this portion of the comment has been removed. It was a duplication of the previous comment, copied and pasted, so nothing has been lost.]

Tim Acheson (04 Feb 11, 18:06)

Ross, following on from your tweets, I've offered my initial responses to the points you queried -- on the pastebin page you kindly created.

So far you have not disproved or even tried to disprove even one point I make above, ergo my conclusions still stand firm. :)

Tim Acheson (04 Feb 11, 18:09)

Matt D wrote: "This seemed to have disappeared"

Nothing is deleted, it's just a symptom of a caching mechanism I'm trying. After commenting you see the post immediately, but there's a delay before it's really public. I should probably add a message to explain.

Please bear with me, I'm on the train home and there are tunnels! I promise to respond at the next opportunity. :)

"MS, whilst doing some great stuff, definitely isn't perfect and has seemingly done most of the things along the way that you attack Google for doing!"

I agree, MS is not perfect. I single-out Google as an obvious and well-documented example.

But the issues run much deeper than simply incorporating somebody else's ideas. Microsoft is under attack from its rivals, but does not retalliate or attack its rivals in the same way -- as I've pointed out above.

Tim Acheson (05 Feb 11, 10:45)

Google is openly attacking Microsoft, and Apple is to an extent though in some ways more covertly

Google employees gleefully attack Microsoft products at every possible opportunity. This is what really sets Google apart from other companies -- it's the condescending nastiness and arrogance of their employees toward commercial rivals, not to mention their unprofessionalism. Google likes to attack other companies, but you shouldn't dish it out unless you can take it. That is the primary reason why I spend time writing about Google -- because they deserve it! And to address the balance.

For example, when users realised that Google Wave was buggy and not properly tested accross different platforms, Google staff reacted by turning it into a flagrant anti-Microsoft negative publicity stunt. They refused to make Wave work in IE, asked IE users to install a plug-in to make it work, and -- characteristically of Google -- exploited it as an opportunity to criticise IE in a most underhanded manner. Here's a small extract from the corresonding announcement on the (Google Wave Developer Blog, written by Lars Rasmussen (Google Wave team manager) and Adam Schuck (Google Wave client tech lead), it's typical Google propaganda:-

"... Unfortunately, Internet Explorer, still used by the majority of the Web's users, has not kept up with such fairly recent developments in Web technology. Compared with other browsers, the JavaScript performance is many times slower and HTML5 support is still far behind. Likewise, the many different versions of IE still in use -- each with its own set of CSS quirks and layout limitations -- further complicates building rich Web applications. ..."

Let's briefly consider this outburst in more detail, because it seems to show Google employees and their attitude in their true colours. Why is it "unfortunate" that people are using IE? People can use any browser they wish. But Google employees think they know better than everybody else, so it stands to reason that users would act differently if only they shared the genius and wisdom of those within Google. The statement then goes on to compare the old current version of IE with the latest version of other web browsers. As for the new version of IE? IE9 is the fastest web browser by far and IE9 supports HTML5 better than any other web browser. But Google's comments are disingenuous. HTML5 is still a draft specification, it's not finished yet. And Chrome doesn't have "different versions" because they are a newcomer! IE is the only major browser that was around in the early days and is still going strong! So of course there were older versions of IE. People love to criticise IE6, but should bear in mind that it's now a decade old though it's still widely used and popular among users who by the way are not all idiots.

[Ultimately, of course, after all the ridiculous hype, Wave was a complete flop, and Google tried quietly stepped away hoping not too many people would notice that Wave had landed on their growing junk-heap of high-profile failures.]

If you phoned a company or walked into a shop for a quote and they started insulting the other company you had in mind, they would look unprofessional. And this is exactly what Google and Apple are routinely doing to MS.

Tim Acheson (05 Feb 11, 16:35)

... @Matt D (continued)...

Also, Microsoft hasn't cultivated a powerful mythological image as an innovator, as Google has, though MS is just as much of an innovator if not more so. Occasionally knowledgable people do speak out, as in this classic innovation-myth-debunking comment on Matt Cutts' blog:-

"I always find it hilarious to see people gushing over the google toolbar, as if it were something new and innovative.

Back in 1996 (yes, 1996) my 5 person software company INVENTED the browser search toolbar. sold it to infoseek, and were in negotiations with yahoo to sell them a copy too but our company was sold before the deal was finished. ( i still remember jerry yang calling me up and saying “ok, so i guess we’re working with you guys now?” )

1996, people. with a 5 person company, only two of which were coders.

This isn’t rocket science."

(Jim, 2006)

I may update the original post with more examples, to emphasise such crucial distinctions.


Nicely put Tim,

However you left out Google Checkout from your list.

Tim Acheson (09 Feb 11, 17:18)

Yo, Stevo! Thanks for reminding me, it's too obvious an example to miss, I'll add that to the list tonight. Hope all's well at your end. Let's catch up over a pint again very soon!


@Anonynmous you fail. get your facts straight before you make yourself look like a douche.


was meant to be a reply to Anonymous (04 Feb 11, 16:42)

Jhonny López (10 Feb 11, 03:49)

I agree with you. I would just add that I agree with you.

Tim Acheson (10 Feb 11, 09:21)

An insightful perspective: Google, antitrust, and the 'Copygate' hypocrisy (The Register)


You criticise OpenOffice as being a lame attempt to provide MS Office, but then fail to mention that MS Office is not an innovation. at. all. It is predated by many word processor and spreadsheet apps.

Blatant MS Fanboyism

Tim Acheson (10 Feb 11, 12:49)

@Neil You're mistaken. Which product did you think MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, MS Outlook, and FrontPage was copying?

But let's not miss the point. I acknowledged that all innovation is based to some extent on previous innovation. But there's no excuse for confusing what Google is doing with the normal healthy process of innovation.

Let me share one of favourite quotes with you:-

"If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." (Isaac Newton)

This concept is a very long way from what Google is doing. Google is blatantly copying entire products, setting-up "[product x] killers", and then attacking the company that had the original idea.


I'm quite ready to believe you on most of it, but Vista Business Basic is appalling, it constantly wrecks itself, finally overcame my fear of linux and installed Ubuntu, oh how sweet, like a dream, fast and simple. MSOffice makes sense if you're running a corporation, but it's way too slow and bloated for a small student computer. Excel is far better than calc, and if i needed an Outlook, that would be the best,but i don't. OpenOffice works perfectly for essays, gimp is great, emacs - i can't agree with you about opensource. Portableapps.com for my usb stick... nope, lost. But i am happy to learn about the darkside of google, and think it is necessary to have as many different players as possible. It's like shops-avoid walmart, go local and support the small producer. The worst is when great inventions, i'm thinking of the wonderful german social networking sites fruhstuckstreff and lokalisten, are useless because they're in a foreign country, while i have to use dull old facebook because all my friends contact me thus:`(


Your view is extremely one sided, Acheson. You have not begun to think what Google has done for the world. Previously, Microsoft controlled the world over with MS Word (buy it or you're screwed attitude), commanding extortionate prices for software that - let's face it - was absolutely shit most of the time. How long does it take to fix a major bug... 6 months?!! Unacceptable, yet they can do that because they lacked respect for their consumers.

Firstly, Microsoft copied Apple. Let's not forget that. Secondly, Google is not only copying their work but they making something out of it. Who thought it a great idea for hotmail to limit inbox size to 20MB? Google comes along offers basically unlimited space then hotmail must follow. Google is opening up the market and making companies become competitive.

The phone OS. Come on, it was pretty damn crap, Symbian was not adaptable to the smartphone market and Nokia is not basically in the shit because of their failure to react to demand and trends. Google comes along and opens up the smartphone market with open source Android OS. hey are creating all these game changers and you think they are simply copying ideas? You are wrong. They improve on what their competition has to offer - they push their competitors to offer more. Can you imagine what kind of world we would be in if Symbian was still the dominating OS in the phone market? We would literally have been five years behind what it is now! Nokia got cocky and forgot to evolve. Google is now also feeling the same sentiments but they are at least they are still evolving and pushing boundaries. I bet you have not heard of all the projects google have sponsored in an effort to push advancements in green energy? Or the use of robotic drivers in cars? They have seriously got their hands on everything and they are not afraid to risk it.

Microsoft was always about the money and so was Nokia. They thought they mastered their products and copied just replicate it over and over to make cash. Now Apple and Google are eating up into their market shares. Apple's iphone is an interesting one... it is still extremely successful as a result of perfect marketing and branding but I believe in the near future Android OS will ultimately topple Apple as the preferred choice because it's open source and that means faster improvements and freedom for developers to do whatever they want.

These days there's no idea that's original, everything is built from another concept or technology. What is important is that companies IMPROVE on it and offer something new and different. Gmail was launched at a time when Hotmail was still charging for inboxes that was over 20MB.

Now I see more and more companies looking to increase the stakes. O2 for example are offering existing customers the best deals that normally only new customers are eligible for. For a long time now, phone companies only cared about generating revenue from new customers and getting them purposely to buy a monthly contract that they DIDN'T need. Now these companies are changing their game.

This is an interesting era for innovation. People who hate change should get out of the market and stay home. They are gonna get burned.

Tim Acheson (12 Feb 11, 09:16)

@Maia

VBB is an abomination. What problems were you experiencing? It may have been the hardware. VBB isn't very good at dealing with hardware issues like faulty addresses in the RAM or faulty sectors in the HDD.

Which version of Ubuntu did you install? Ubuntu enthusiasts like to compare the latest versions of Ubuntu with ten-year-old Microsoft OSs like Win XP, or Vista their last previous generation OS. Have you tried Win7 yet? Everything is better, and everything important is solved.

I don't mind Ubuntu, but it just doesn't compare with Windows. It tries. But there's far, far too much I can't do on Ubuntu that I can on Windows. I'd actually rather run ancient Windows NT than the latest Ubuntu.

Thanks for exploring some of the dark side of tech with me! :)

Tim Acheson (12 Feb 11, 10:12)

@Helmon Thanks for commenting! Please, permit me to reply.

My view is accurate, and my perspective is not one-sided. However, none of this subtracts from the positive impact that Google has had on the world, first and foremost raising the bar for web search.

Microsoft never really "controlled the world" but I think I know what you mean. They retain their dominance in their core markets today, despite numerous attempts to push alternatives -- by Google, Apple, and others. There was never a "buy it or you're screwed attitude". Far from it. Often, Word or an upgrade option has been as OEM software, pre-installed when you purchase a new PC or laptop. Of course, you can always choose a different deal but it's wise to do the sums. Also, Windows has always had Wordpad and Notepad installed for free, and these are more than adequate for writing documents. I know people who have written entire books using just Wordpad, and even a PhD thesis. If you want something more advanced, Word is available. The price of Word is very reasonable, not at all "extortionate". Compare the price of other richly-featured software. Also, there are even free versions of MS Office -- MS Office Starter, and MS Office Web Apps, Docs.com, etc! In every case I've seen, people complaining about the price purchased the wrong edition of Word or Office. If you but Office Professional without checking whether you need all the features, as most companies and private individuals seem to do, that's a choice and you can't blame MS. The fact that people are prepared to pay for more than they need is a complement to MS Office. Nevertheless, I would like to see MS doing more to make the choices even more clear than they already are.

"Firstly, Microsoft copied Apple. Let's not forget that."

No, Apple copied Microsoft. It's funny how many people regurgitate that popular misconception. Think about it, and see if you can cite some examples to prove your point.

"Google comes along and opens up the smartphone market with open source Android OS. hey are creating all these game changers and you think they are simply copying ideas?"

Android manifestly is a direct imitation of iOS. Also, it's really just Java which Google is using without permission (legal action is in progress). But Android is not better than iOS. They're both pretty lame OSs.

"These days there's no idea that's original, everything is built from another concept or technology."

Read my post, not just the headline. I acknowledge this, and clearly demonstrate that what Google is doing is very different to that. Google is blatantly and directly copying entire products, or just buying and repackaging the product, and attacking its rivals most unprofessionally and underhandedly.

Tim Acheson (14 Feb 11, 20:22)

Thanks zennie62 for tweeting this pertinent SFGate article at me today: "Google's reason for Google News changes: The Hot News Doctrine"

"Google News staffers delist the blog... Meanwhile, true violators of Google News guidelines, like Associated Content, are permitted to remain listed on Google News"

You ve been asking for precedecors of the Microsoft Office Main products. The inital release of Microsoft office was in 1990.
Leaving out plain text editors in the early days of computing and TeX variants being the follow up (and being the "parents" wordprocessors) there were several products covering the same functionality: First of all, the Lotus applications as in Lotus 1-2-3 (spreadsheet) and Symphony (word processing and spreadsheet), VisiCalc (first spreadsheet programm for a personal computer) Supercalc (another spreadsheet programm) AppleWorks (Office suit, MicrosoftWorks, precedessor of MS Office was originally developed as a competor to this, then Microsoft licensed it from the company that developed it), WordStar ( one of the first word processor softwares, released 1978) Microsoft Word as a standalone product was released first in 1983. WordPerfect (wordprocessor, released first in 1980) there were numerous other word processors..
Microsoft Outlook was first released as Outlook 97, designed to be a competitor to the existing Lotus Notes.
I could also mention many email clients which were around that time,as that s still main use for Outlook, but actually it has more features so only then existing PIM software counts: the WordPerfectSuite gained email and calendar functionality as soon as 1988, in 1990 it started supporting multiple servers with cross-server email, calendaring and scheduling.Later in the 90s Novell bought WordPerfect, sold parts of it to Corel, but kept the PIM functionality and the Groupware server solutions, renaming the bunch "Groupwise".
Frontpage was the first WYSIWYG when it was released in 95m but itwasnt initionally developed by MS, they bought the company in 96, when similar products kept poping into market, having been announced earlier. Actually buying an inovator something they have done as well several times. Before that. And after that. If it didnt work, they created their own product if they wanted to get into the certain market. (acutally in buisness, that s the initonal decisson, everything else is ways to get there)

One final thing about LibreOffice or however u call it now... it was initally released as StarOffice in 1985. Sun bought the company in the 90s and kept developing it, opensourcing it at some point, but still driving development by paying numerous people to work on it full time.
Quite some open source software works that way. Big companies pay people to work on it full time.


Analysis: Didn't you notice Google's crown slipping? (New Scientist).

The Googlization of Everything by Siva Vaidhyanathan is intelligent and provocative, but fails to see the challenge of the social internet... ... right now the internet is undergoing a great shift from a Google-centric platform of data to a Facebook-centric platform of people. ... ... Even Google's search, which is responsible for over 90 per cent of its revenue, is becoming increasingly social, with Microsoft's Bing and smaller start-ups seeing social recommendation as a more valuable driver of search than Google's artificial algorithm. ...
Tim Acheson (18 Apr 11, 08:07)

Related: Google threatens destroy not only pop sensation Adele, but Britain film and music film and music industries. So why is No.10 in thrall to this parasitic monster? (Daily Mail).

The Prime Minister, cocooned in his Downing Street bubble with his Google cheerleaders, seems blissfully unaware that, far from being an influence for good on the world wide web, Google has become a global predator ruthlessly gobbling up potential rivals such as YouTube and ‘stealing’ the creative work of writers, film makers and the music industry.

Significantly, other countries seem more aware of the huge cultural dangers posed by the digital giant.

A Federal Court in the U.S. ruled last month that a proposed settlement to Google's alleged exploitation of a copyright loophole was unfair.


I really enjoyed your post and I think it brought up a lot of good points. I personally don't think google is a horrible company but it's this blinded acceptance of all they do that I find disconcerting.

Despite MS's many failures many of the reasons you pointed out is exactly why I respect them the most in the industry right now. The fact that they mostly work on getting things to just work rather than hyping, and in fact, as you pointed out, this is actually a flaw in how they operate.

I honestly only started looking at google in a new light since their so-called 'bing sting'. When the story hit public consensus was by and large on google's side, with people mouthing off about how evil MS was without really taking the time to understand the situation at all. Looking deeper into the story it was quite clear that google merely found a way to game bing, and their allegations, while they point out a legitimate flaw in how bing works, were exaggerated and honestly simply a dirty tactic to grab attention before a big even. Especially with them announcing that apparently all they wanted was for Microsoft to stop their stealing, as if to sound like some long suffering saint while clearly they were merely looking to hype the situation, which is not unexpected, but man up and admit it or at least don't try to portray this as an attempt at civic duty.

I value your post for pointing out other things that aren't so squeaky clean in google's history. I do believe the bubble will burst someday, but I wonder how much power google will have amassed by then.

Bill Ramirez (29 May 11, 05:31)

Great article, agree with all. Have become a little sick of all the Microsoft bashing going on. The thing that Microsoft has done very well over the years is relate too and pamper developers (I am one), and this will remain the key to their success.


You forgot to mention AdWords - Google copying Overture's Pay-per-Click advertising model, that they incorporated into search, effectively building $20B revenue stream. In fact Overture sued them, and then settled for cash (in a usual Google manner).

Like in almost all other case, Google innovated on top of whatever they copy - and make it more sophisticated and user friendly. (Gmail, Maps, etc)

Tim Acheson (31 May 11, 09:46)

@yamala + @BlllRamirez thanks for your feedback, it's a pleasure to hear from people with insight and a balanced viewpoint.

@Joseph Thanks for reminding me about AdWords. There are so many examples, I couldn't discuss them all in the original blog post, but that's an important one!

Tim Acheson (02 Jun 11, 09:41)

The latest high-profile example: Google Places Now Borrowing Yelp Reviews Without Attribution (TechCrunch).

Busted! That's the tone with which many commentators are reporting this latest incident. Google tried to buy Yelp, but Yelp rightly refused, so Google then copied Yelp setting up their own service seeking to put Yelp out of business. It would be comical, but it's a serious matter. I know people who work at companies Google is trying to put out of business. Real people are being affected. Next time, it might be your livelihood Google's sights.

Tim Acheson (03 Jun 11, 15:45)

Related: Google hands millions to 'independent' watchdogs (The Register)

"What do you do when a global corporation pays out millions to the watchdogs that we expect to protect us against it? ..."
Tim Acheson (29 Jun 11, 12:25)

Latest example: Google+

"The Google+ social network is intended to rival Facebook and Twitter" (Daily Telegraph, see caption beneath main photo)

A new Google platform to take on Facebook and Twitter? Wow, Deja Vu! Remember Buzz? Another GFail. Yet many people still choose to believe that Google still has the golden touch -- when the corporation lost it a long time ago.

Tim Acheson (18 Jul 11, 21:11)

"Google: The one trick pony learns a second trick -- It sells ads. And it clones other people's products" (The Register)

"Open...and Shut Google has a nasty habit of cannibalizing others' businesses ... The problem is that each time this involves giving away free software and services to undermine competitors at the expense of growing its own. Or can Google make a business from giving competitors fits?"

Related: Zynga Sues Google Over Vostu Dispute, Brazilian Judge Grants Injunction

"Zynga dragged Google into that lawsuit, apparently because Orkut, popular in Brazil, is hosting the Vostu games that Zynga says are ripoffs."

Related: Google Threw A Punch, Microsoft Fires Back With A Missile (TechCrunch)

"While it’s only one instance, this really does undercut Google’s entire argument. Google was attempting to set up a pattern of Microsoft teaming up with other Google rivals to damage them. But the first instance listed was actually the result of Google turning Microsoft down, as the email shows. That doesn’t not look good for Google."
[Google is only "continuously slapped in the face by the patent issue" because their strategy is to use other people's ideas and try to get away with it, rather than paying a fair price to the folks behind the original innovation who invested all the time and money.]

Update: Google Offers struggling three months in: report (Reuters)

So, Google's latest attempt to blatantly copy other people's ideas is already descending into another humiliating failure. Another GFail, because imitation < innovation.


No comments about the tons of predecessors to MS Office and its components above? An example of MS buying and copying instead of innovating as you continue to slam Google for?

What about the fact Microsoft BOUGHT DOS, and got its foothold in the PC industry there. Gates was getting paid by IBM to develop a operating system, and went out bought a company and sold it to IBM. Smart, yes, but Gates was not the innovator.

And Apple DID precede Windows with a GUI, windowed environment using a Mouse. The Macintosh launched in 1984. The first version of MS Windows launched in 1985. And actually the ill fated Apple "Lisa" launched in 1983. The windowed environment w/ mouse was actually invented by Xerox, and Apple was given permission to use it. In either regard, Windows was not revolutionary.

In every industry, most innovations are not revolutionary but the result of trying to "build a better mousetrap"

Your hatred for Google is strange. You have the right to your opinion for sure, but you got things wrong all over your blog post.


Brandt, what "predecessors to MS Office"? What did you think these were, exactly? And where are they now?


Update

Google's strategy of imitation rather than innovation isn't working too well, as the corporation's own disillusioned employees seem know all too well. (GFail.)

How true this "rant" was, and how profoundly insightful.

The leaked insider's opinion offers a rare glimpse into the reality behind the closed doors of a highly secretive and PR-obsessed corporation, where information is tightly controlled. Google led the way in search, but that was a decade ago and the web has moved on. Facebook (partnered with and part owned by Microsoft) has overtaken Google.com as the most popular website. Google has now firmly established a pattern of imitation and acquisition instead of innovation, blatantly copying other people’s ideas but often missing the point – and “Google+” is an excellent example of this pathological mentality.

If the leak was deliberate, it may be a calculated risk – Google’s PR folks know the employee can’t be sacked without drawing more attention to the story, at least not immediately.

Ironically, this bad-news story is also somehow reassuring -- it suggests that Google does still employ at least one wise person who isn’t dazzled blind by the company’s historical successes and can even think for himself.


Google gained a large injection of intellectual property from an Australian company based in Sydney. When we were ready to expand we went into a partnership with another company. Money was stolen, projects were strung out. Now Google has revealed a host of work that we had been working on. Read www.googlebeginnings.com


Related: Google+ Marketing Plan: Newspaper Ads + Celebs (WSJ)

[Oh dear. Celebrities, eh. It's all rather tacky and desperate. Facebook and Twitter grew organically. That's kinda the whole point. The social web is a grass-roots ecosystem, it can't be created artificially by a huge corporation or by drowning a project in money. Just looking for another way to spend the cash from search.

Tim Acheson (30 Oct 11, 13:37)

Related: Microsoft: Android is standing 'on the shoulder of companies like Microsoft'

"Google is standing ‘on the shoulder of companies like Microsoft who made all these billions of dollars in investments‘"
Tim Acheson (17 Nov 11, 09:11)

Google 'obstructed' Senate hearing on copyright

Google and others who profit from piracy have found it far more rewarding to grandstand ... By nature, Google appears to prefer backroom lobbying and a network of activist groups to business innovation...
Tim Acheson (07 Dec 11, 10:56)

Update: Daily Report: Google May Step on Amazon’s Turf

So, for their next trick, Google will now be copying Amazon.com! #GFail. This would be a natural progression of the corporation's track record of imitation rather than innovation. Google has firmly established a pattern of copying other people's ideas and barging into other markets.

Tim Acheson (09 Dec 11, 10:13)

Latest: Google might launch Flipboard-rival as soon as tomorrow

So, now Google is apparently planning to copy Flipboard. Unsurprising from a corporation which has, for a long time now, lacked original ideas of its own and failed to innovate. Google is redefining its self as an old dinosaur of the initial rise of the Internet. Google led the way in search, but that was a decade ago and since then they've done little more than spend the cash from search on imitation rather than innovation, and a long line of acquisitions.

Tim Acheson (09 Feb 12, 09:25)

Related: Google Is Painting A Big Fat Target On Dropbox (Business Insider)

In this recent high-profile example, Google will be openly copying consumer cloud storage services, long after other companies got there first, most obviously SkyDrive, DropBox, and Amazon Cloud Storage. As usual, imitation instead of innovation.

As usual, the corporation's aim is to put the people who had the original idea out of business. So, what's Google's great strategy for competing against DropBox? Perhaps some new features or a new idea? No. As one commentator put it, Google's "Dropbox competitor ... Aims to charge smaller fee". Yes, -- predictably, Google's whole plan is simply to imitate original start-up's idea, and undercut them slightly on price. It's lame.

The truth is, "G-Drive" may prove popular with the benefit of Google's marketing and spending power, but as usual the corporation is is playing catch-up and "G-Drive" will simply not be as mature and well-integrated as Microsoft's SkyDrive.

Tim Acheson (18 Apr 12, 11:06)

Google's at it again! They're copying other people's ideas as usual -- this time trying to replicate SkyDrive, and trying to do what Dropbox and Amazon Cloud Storage are doing. It's an ongoing pattern of imitation instead of innovation.

But as objective commentators point out: "nothing comes close to SkyDrive. Microsoft gives users 25GB of free online storage, right off the bat."

Google "leak" = corporate PR stunt

Google's leaks to selected sources are a mechanism for feeding and retaining a pool of commentators who are loyal rather than objective. It's analogous to the "embedded" journalists used by governments. If you criticise the hand that feeds you, don't expect to get a scoop. It's not a healthy system, it's a malignant process that discourages objective and truthful reporting.

Google Drive? A new Satnav? No. It's the Google corporation attempting to replicate what others are already doing, especially Microsoft's SkyDrive, an established service provided by a rival company, which Google's brand naming folks must be fully aware of.

Tim Acheson (02 Jul 12, 10:45)

Latest: Google launches its official distributed computing offering "Compute Engine"

We knew that Google was going to get into the business cloud game, and it has announced its Amazon competitor, “Compute Engine” today at I/O.

Google's "Compute Engine" cloud service is a blatant attempt to copy Amazon's EC2 service. The corporation could have come up with a name more imaginative and less similar to Amazon's EC2 (Elastic Computing, but presumably the similarity is a deliberate attempt by Google to portray their GC as an alternative to Amazon's EC2.

Yet, because Google carries an anti--Microsoft chip on its shoulder, unlike EC2 Google's offering won't even offer the Windows servers that most companies actually use and need -- LOL. :)

Can you guess what Google's strategy us for trying to make their service competitive against Amazon's? No, not some clever innovation as fanboys would like to think. Google's big new idea is simply to undercut the competition on price. As always, Google's entire strategy is dependent on the cash from search, their one great innovation -- albeit old news a decade ago.

Thus, Google Compute is another classic example of imitation instead of innovation. Google's has become "cheap" in both senses of the word.

Tim Acheson (09 Jul 12, 14:49)

Google selling the Nexus 7 at a loss

More anti-competitive behaviour by Google. If you can't beat rival products on quality and features, and you have plenty of cash, just beat them on price. This corporation has come to stand for imitation rather than innovation, if you look hard at everything they've done since launch. Google is still dining out on the cash from search! Undercutting legitimate competition on price is a good example of how search and ad revenues are being misused. They could have invested this money in innovation, but chose a different path as usual.

Tim Acheson (10 Jul 12, 09:48)

The dangers of "open", a timely reminder: Don’t use that open API — it could be a trap!

How ironic that the companies who boasted loudest about being "open" and for years have tried to convert us to the "open" ideology, are also the same companies who most spectacularly pull the "open" rug out from under our feet.

Google and Apple have done more than any "closed" company ever could to prove that "open" is a bad idea.

Tim Acheson (17 Jul 12, 21:57)

PayPal's CEO hit the nail on the head -- Google has stagnated. Google has run out of ideas:

“Google also has $50 billion in cash,” Thiel added. “It has no idea how to invest that money in technology effectively … if we’re living in an accelerating technological world, and you have zero percent interest rates, you should be able to invest all of your money in things that will return it many times over. The fact is you’re out of ideas.”
Tim Acheson (27 Jul 12, 14:15)

Related: OAuth 2.0 leader resigns, says standard is 'bad' (CNet)

OAuth -- the "open standard for authorization". Witness the dangers of "open". It's a false economy.

Tim Acheson (07 Aug 12, 14:23)

Related: Google records show book scanning was aimed at Amazon

Google has so far spent more than $180 million on book scanning and, at the outset of the project, one of its stated goals was to keep web searchers away from Amazon. ... the scanning was an overtly commercial project, and that the scanning was not a fair use as Google is claiming.
Tim Acheson (09 Aug 12, 13:59)

Related: Now Google wants to copy Apple's Siri.

Google treading on Siri's ground

NOTE: Microsoft's Kinect did voice control long before Siri existed, and does it very much better too.

Tim Acheson (15 Aug 12, 10:39)

Latest example: Google 'to rival iTunes with new music service'

Google's latest big idea? Copy iTunes and Amazon MP3. This is a bloated corporation which has lost focus, with countless spurious sidelines while the core products and services which people were actually using continue to suffer from chronic bugs and stagnation.

Tim Acheson (30 Oct 12, 11:49)

Latest: Google Music -- now they're copying iTunes. What next?

Nevertheless, Apple was asking for it: iTunes is consistently the most expensive way to buy digital music and video -- as well as being the most restrictive way!

Tim Acheson (31 Oct 12, 11:34)

Related: French President Threatens to Make Google Pay for News

Fair point. Why should hard-working authors and the smallest content providers subsidise a huge evil corporation sitting on 30 BILLION dollars in cash in the bank?

It is undeniably true that Google is a freeloading corporation and it’s time for it to pay a fair price — it’s not as though they can’t afford it!

Tim Acheson (26 Feb 13, 16:15)

Latest: Google 'to launch Spotify rival this year'

The familiar pattern of imitation instead of innovation from Google continues.

Google continues to harbor a pathological institutional bitterness toward Spotify for integrating with Facebook -- shortly after Facebook.com overtook Google.com as the most popular website. The usual Google sour grapes. Google's propaganda machine and network of disproportionately vocal online loyalists tried to spark an outcry against Spotify integrating with Facebook, led by Google's infamous Matt Cutts announcing that he wouldn't recommend Spotify anymore and had deleted his Facebook account.


I won't bother pointing out the many fallacies of your arguments against Open Source, but I will point out one major mistake you made. Open Office was NOT replaced by Libre. Libre is being maintained and developed by some of the Open Office team who felt that Oracle was not taking enough interest in the OO Suite. Lamentable? Open Office was, when it was Java-based and named Star Office. It was not compatible with much at all, was slow and buggy. However, over the past decade, it has become ALMOST as good as MS Office--and better for non-enterprise users. Why should Joe and Cindy family computer have to rely on a $500 piece of software to write letters, balance their checkbooks and organize their video collection when an Open Source Software will do the job free?

And let's talk for a moment about Linux, the KING of the FOSS movement. Is it a replacement for Windows? Not in all cases, no, but then, Windows itself isn't a perfect OS for some uses. Linux caters to the 5% at the bottom end--those who surf and check email--and the 10% on the top end--those who want absolute control of everything their computer does. Windows and OSX cater to that 85% in the middle. Does that make one or the other BETTER? Not really. Just more appropriate for a specific need.

FOSS is the same. Is any of it actually better? Well, in my opinion, for my needs, yes. In certain specific cases. Is FOSS close enough for the mainstream user? In almost all cases.

You cannot compare the needs of enterprise with those of Joe and Cindy. You may as well assume that the guy with the backyard garden needs a $200,000 John Deere tractor. There are tools adequate to the task, and there is overkill. The trick lies in understanding need and matching the software (or tool) to the need.

Tim Acheson (18 Mar 13, 12:49)

Google Is Experimenting With An Evernote-Killer (Again)

Is Google capable of an anything-killer?

Tim Acheson (18 Mar 13, 14:04)

@MartyB my whole point was about the branching and confusion surrounding the OpenOffice/LibreOffice fiasco, and you have helped to reenforce that point. :)

Tim Acheson (28 Mar 13, 14:47)

No wonder Google is such an outspoken advocate of "open" -- because first and foremost it serves the corporations own narrow interests. That does not prevent Google from presenting this as another crusade for the good of mankind in a distorted version of events casting them as the great hero.

A classic example is the way in which Google profits from and utilises online content such as news. This is legally and morally unfair, and e.g. France and Portugal have successfully challenged it.

Tim Acheson (08 Apr 13, 09:54)

Related: WebKit fracture puts a pinch on open-source browser efforts (CNet)

The fallacy and false economy of "open" projects:

"With Google concentrating on its own Blink, Apple is tightening the WebKit browser engine code base. That'll limit other projects seeking to customize the browser."
Tim Acheson (20 May 13, 11:30)

More recent examples.

Google -- the ultimate "me too" company:

Google+ resedign copying Pinterest but is an epic fail of UX and design.

Google Music copies Spotify, Rdio, iTunes and others -- even using the same music database -- but it's just another "me too" service from a corporation playing catch-up and falling flat.

Google+ Games -- a blatant attempt to be like Facebook abruptly ends in failure.

Google could spend the cash from search on innovation but consistently chooses imitation instead.

Tim Acheson (20 May 13, 11:39)

Related: Google is too predictable in their desperation to undermine rivals

Microsoft’s Anti-Google Campaign Gets a Boost, From Google

Microsoft responds to YouTube demands, 'more than happy' to include ads if Google allows it

So much for "open standards" and "open data" -- only apples as and when it suits Google.

Tim Acheson (16 Aug 13, 08:38)

YouTube fiasco on Windows Phone: the limits of Google's proclaimed openness.

Tim Acheson (19 Aug 13, 14:37)

Is Matt Cutts still "Head of Webspam at Google"?

Is there somebody at Google we can follow instead for the SEO/webspam info but without all the Google marketing spam?

In his last post on Google+, which is meant to be a serious attempt by Google's to launch a social media platform to rival Twitter and Facebook, Cuts wrote: "I don't post about SEO stuff very much on G+". That was almost a month ago. He rarely used G+ anyway and hasn't posted anything since. So it's not just SEO he's posting less about on G+. And if that's not what he wants to post about, what is his role at Google exactly?

Matt Cutts is one of the most influential Google evangelists employed by the corporation. Many of his posts on Twitter and elsewhere constitute general corporate evangelism for Google, and his messages are becoming increasingly commercial and marketing-y. He retains his job title as "Head of Webspam", but appears to be a professional evangelist in everything but name.

Google is exploiting Cutts' high-profile role, and the huge following that he has accumulated through his SEO/webspam role, by posting marketing and propaganda through his accounts. This may or may not be automated. Examples below:

"How to get 3 free months of Netflix when you buy a Chromecast: http://goo.gl/2I6eKV Works for existing Netflix subscribers!"
- @mattcutts

"Starbucks & Google partner to bring faster, free wifi to 7,000 Starbucks stores"
- @mattcutts

"The new Android Device Manager helps with lost phones and tablets"
- @mattcutts

"I love my (older) Nexus 7 tablet--perfect form factor. Can't wait to try the new, hi-res Nexus 7"
- @mattcutts

"Amazon selling new 1920x1200 Google Nexus 7 now"
- @mattcutts

Etc...

Sometimes, exactly the same tweet is also posted by other prominent Googlers, suggesting automated campaigns, although it's impossible to rule out manual regurgitation:

E.g. "How to get 3 free months of Netflix when you buy a Chromecast: http://goo.gl/2I6eKV Works for existing Netflix subscribers!"
- @royans and @mattcutts.

Tim Acheson (22 Aug 13, 11:26)

Related:

Ubuntu Edge smartphone campaign ends in failure, raising less than half of $32m crowdfunding goal

Nevertheless, these supposedly "open" imitations of popular products can do great damage to the original innovation, e.g. Android vs iOS.

Tim Acheson (10 Sep 13, 08:48)

Related: Android favours piracy

That's what "FOSS" is really about. Freeloaders. Leaches.

Tim Acheson (20 Jan 14, 09:20)

Google announces contact lense for diabetes (developed by Microsoft who announced it two years ago with the very same team).

Google's not shy of taking credit for other people's hard work. With the contact lense diabetes detection tech, Microsoft took all the risk and was there for the real innovation, and Google showed up only after it became a safe bet. The only think "open" about Google in this example was their fat wallet, stuffed with trillions of dollars of unpaid tax money from around the globe.

"While Google[x] works in private and doesn’t openly cooperate with others, Tan seems to imply, Microsoft Research helps to push basic research forward by working with researchers around the world."

That's why Google champions "open" -- because they get to steal it. Seriously.

Tim Acheson (17 Apr 14, 10:15)

Related:

OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts

The security bug may not have been discovered and exploited had this not been open source. The open source apologists chose to overlook that fact when they wrote all those articles saying don't blame open for Heartbleed.

Also: Critical crypto bug leaves Linux, hundreds of apps open to eavesdropping

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