If we just admit we are heading in to a technology Duopoly split between Microsoft and Google.
Microsoft is the reigning king of the desktop, Office Automation, and all things local. Google reigns over all things Net, Search, and Connected. As the lines blur between the desktop, the Net, and the Cloud, the two kings will wage battle and like a giant game of Risk, plays will be made for the technologies and companies that own the portions of the Net which haven’t been claimed by these titans.
Akamai and Advection
Content Delivery Networks serve several uses in the battle for the Internet. Google has already been using Akamai for gaining inexpensive bandwidth, but CDN’s also bring tools and metrics, monitoring and data about who is doing what, where and when.
There are rumors that Google is looking to buy Akamai, an investment that would be very good for Google, but would put far too much of the Internet’s bandwidth at the mercy of one player. Forget Net Neutrality if Google had this much of the Internet on its pipes they would be in a position to shape traffic as it saw fit, either with pricing, or with prioritization. Google would also gain the expertise of Content relationships that it currently lacks. Picking up live sporting events, church venues, and even *gasp* adult content. Microsoft on the other hand has more bandwidth than it knows what to do with, but should bid up Akamai just to keep Google from having it.
Regardless of what happens with Akamai, Microsoft should purchase Advection. A smaller often overlooked CDN with many tools similar to what Akamai has, but as a much less expensive cost of ownership. Paired with the bandwidth that Microsoft already has Advection would bring 80% of the IP that an Akamai purchase would, but at one fifth the price.
Amazon and Alexa
Microsoft and Google are both trying to play in commerce, logistics and Cloud Computing. Who is really Good at this? Amazon. While most of us think of Amazon as that Online Book Company, Amazon is the current leader in Cloud Computing. Amazon brings so much to the table if they wanted to try and take on Google and Microsoft in search and online advertising I’d put my money on them. Amazon is patient, calculated, and does the research to integrate in to and then shape markets.
When you then look at the rich set of API’s which Amazon and Alexa are monetizing by allowing others to build tools, content and software on a price per API call basis they have proven that they can make money in the back ground, the silent “partner” in many companies, owning a piece of a great many pies. A model Microsoft used to excel at.
Starent (too late so Cisco)
Starent has amazing technology for mobile infrastructure. Starent’s multimedia intelligence solutions are a key component in the transition from Internet on mobile devices, to a fully Mobile Internet. Starent doesn’t just make connections, but enhances and helps to make mobile connectivity a platform, rather than just a connection.
Microsoft has always been a software company, but as it enters the hardware market more and more with Zune, Xbox, and Peripherals Cisco would look like a reasonable match. The biggest obstacle to such a merger is that Microsoft likes to be the OS running on their products, much of Cisco’s product line runs on Linux and Open Source solutions, along with Embedded OS’s from Cisco.
Google is starting to play in the Mobile Space with Android, but I think this was more a way to put feelers in to what is involved in creating an OS, and possibly proving that they can release a product that doesn’t have the word “Beta” after it.
Starent would have been an awesome purchase even at nearly $3 Billion dollars. Cisco got a good deal. While Cisco is likely too expensive to realistically be purchased/merged with either of these two titans either, or both could definitely earn back the investment from the level of integration that could be done with the “network”. Much like the advantages that Starent brings to mobile networks, integration with traditional network equipment allows for technologies like Microsoft’s Media Room to perform better on the “extra-nets” that exists in the realms between public and private networks, in homes, the edge of ISP’s and corporate campuses.
OpenX and CauseMedia Group
Online Marketing is not just contextual Ads. Microsoft is coming to the party late with Microsoft Pubcenter, and as a result is playing catch up. A game Microsoft rarely wins at in the first 10 years after it enters a market it didn’t create. Google has a contextual advertising monopoly at the moment with Adwords/Adsense. Microsoft needs to hit the ground with the things they do best. Platforms. Open X is the ad platform for small and large ad management. With very little work Microsoft could be on Millions of sites over night buy helping webmasters take control of their web properties monetization. Giving Web master the insight to make the kinds of decisions that currently are made for them by the ad services they use.
Google’s reign is strictly online, but with the rise of Social Media companies Like CauseMedia Group who do both on and offline marketing campaigns offer understanding of complete ad campaigns in the “New New Media” that is the world of Facebook, Twitter, and Conferences. Mediums that in many cases even their creators don’t understand. CauseMedia Group is more successfully monetizing these new mediums more efficiently than their creators are, and that is reason why Google, or Microsoft should invest a few pennies now to have that insight later.
The War to Come
Google and Microsoft’s war will likely benefit consumers a great deal, expect to see amazing new offerings over the next 3 years, but also expect to see trial products that try different models, from free, to freemium to ad sponsored. Expect that some offerings will disappear taking your data, and content with them, and be prepared for growing pains when some tools take off unexpectedly, or are used in ways their creators didn’t expect.
Microsoft and Google have plenty of reserves of cash, so there will be plenty of purchases of fire sale companies, and companies who can’t quite reach the growth they should.