Google doesn’t understand business needs, Gates rails

4 Mar 2008

SEATTLE – The outgoing chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates, yesterday attacked search giant Google’s attempts to enter the business software market with its own set of productivity tools.

Speaking at the Office SharePoint Conference in Seattle yesterday, Bill Gates said his aim is to see the SharePoint web collaboration technology commonplace across a variety of market verticals as Office is today.

“For example, in the education market, schools can create portals so parents can see the homework assigned to their child.

In the business world, he said he wants to see a higher percentage of workers exposed to SharePoint and an assumption of skilled use of the technology in the same way that Office skills are expected of workers entering the workforce today.

“Google doesn’t really understand the special needs of business. Their entire economic model is based on the consumer space. We’re interested in challenging them, but Google’s productivity tools don’t have the richness or responsiveness needed.

“For most of Google’s products, the day they announce them is their best day. Look at Google Talk – it was so going to change the world.

“It’s healthy there are choices out there, but in terms of the breadth of what needs to be done are people using [Google productivity tools] for budgeting or sales analysis? Users want to be empowered to be able to use productivity tools across a wide range of possibilities.”

Gates was asked how Microsoft’s attempts to take over Yahoo! with an offer currently valued at US$42bn would affect Microsoft’s SharePoint strategy.

“Whether we do the Yahoo! merger or not will have no impact on SharePoint. We are serious about competing in consumer search. We learned a lot in terms of how you build up and automate data centres as we hosted SharePoint but also a lot about customer management.

“The fact that we are serious about competing in the search space is relevant and will help SharePoint. We have an incredible team working on consumer search that will deliver surprises. Search is an important area for us. In general, we are bullish about search,” Gates said.

Kurt DelBene, senior vice-president of Microsoft’s Office division, said that three quarters of Fortune 100 companies are now using SharePoint and that there has been a 77pc growth in the number of partner solutions available from the 2,000 partner firms.

“It empowers business to do new things they haven’t done in the past,” DelBene said.

Among companies using Sharepoint is Starbucks, whose 24,000 workers worldwide use it as a training platform, as well as Ford, Accenture, EasyJet and Viacom.

By John Kennedy