Digital Wars: Apple, Google, Microsoft and the battle for the Internet
Charles Arthur book Digital Wars is an extensively chronicled battle between Apple, Google, and Microsoft fighting for dominance in the new world of technology. The well-known Gurdian’s technology Editor, has been in the industry for as long as I can remember and is extensively versed with technology journalism. Digital Wars is a fascinating book that was worth my money because every chapter makes a gripping story that any die-hard techie would fall in love with. The Digital Wars story begins in 1998 when the Internet and computing business industry was a moment away from witnessing antitrust case that would end up defining the industry. The focus is on three globally renowned technology companies, their current and former staff strategies. Two years before the turn of the century author Ken Auletta asked Microsoft co founder Bill Gates which of his competitors he feared most and he replied “I fear someone in a garage who is devising something completely new.” According to the data available, in 1998 Bill Gate’s Microsoft market capitalization was $344.6 billion, Apple’s was worth $5.54 billion while Google was in theory worth $10 million, based on a single venture capitalist’s willingness to hand that “someone in a garage” $100,000 in return for 1 percent of the not-yet-real company. In simple calculations, Microsoft accounted for 98 percent of the combined value of the four tech giants. As of mid last year, the market value of Google was at $203.08 billion, Microsoft at $258 billion (Read) and Apple at $564 billion.
The book discloses how Microsoft triumphed in its second antitrust suit and how the firm escaped from split although it was profoundly shaken to the core. After the suit, Microsoft is said to have assessed multiple new ideas in the light of whether suit would have any implications on the company’s future. During the same period, Apple witnessed the return of the late Steve Jobs as CEO a company Michael Dell the founder of Dell computers who recently won the battle to take over back the troubled computer company pondered shutting it down and handing over the cash to shareholders. In 1998, Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin were novices in the tech industry. Then 24 months later Steve Ballmer replaced Bill Gates as Microsoft CEO while Larry Page and Sergey Brin appointed Eric Schmidt as their company CEO after he failed to secure Apple’s CEO job. Charles Arthur is clear that technology business newcomers mostly flourish because it’s usual to witness existing top dogs leave opportunities open to incoming giants. These he cites as one of the reasons many opportunities that were created by Microsoft like ignoring search business, and the loss of younger engineers, smartphones business and digital platforms like music and many other businesses that Microsoft underestimated competition. Charles Arthur is right to say that digital landscape is more or less like a series of pitched battles among technology companies. Their gulf apart strategies and market focus starting from apple’s digital music, Google’s search business, smartphones and Tablets powered by its Android operating system and Microsoft’s computer business has defined the landscape of tech industry. Today, Google as an organization has become powerful politically and economically and is full of red tape just like a socialist government. In my opinion, Digital Wars is a well-researched book that focuses on accounts of both victories and losses of tech giants. The late Steve Jobs successor at Apple, Tim Cook is quoted in the book as saying that: “If you’ve lost the battle, one way to win is to move to new battlefield.” Charles Arthur makes it clear that tech industry battles have more benefits and costs to consumers and society than the industry itself.Digital Wars also reveals how Microsoft from a programmer’s led company (read Bill Gates) transformed to a salesman’s led company (read Steve Ballmer) at the same period when Apple was reinventing itself to its original glory led by the late Steve Jobs who was back at the helm. Microsoft’s transformation however did not bore any fruits.
In the book, Bill Gates is also quoted as saying, “The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.” Last year I enjoyed reading Walter Isaacson’s biography glimpse into the innovations and intellectual greatness of Jobs, but I must admit that Digital Wars equally offers incisive and deep analysis of Steve Jobs’ working insights at Apple. In the battle of becoming the top dog in the industry, Apple crafters used design, the vertical model of controlling the hardware and software that strictly focused on customer. Steve Ballmer and his team at Redmond’s based Microsoft made good use of their highly trained employees’ in programming skills and monopolies in computer’s powering operating system to venture into new markets that included but not limited to music, game industry and Bing search business. Google, the dominant search engine focused on being fast paced with ideas some that have succeeded and others floundering, as well as using power of analyzing data to make decisions leaving to no room for rivals to get closer. The book is very authoritative in my opinion because Charles Arthur conducted exclusive interviews with past and current staff of the three companies. Any would be tech entrepreneur has a lot to learn from these great entrepreneurs of our generations. In Contador Harrison prediction universe, social networking and mobile advertising business will be the next battleground in the continuing battle to control the Cyberspace.