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Tech Wars: Breaking down the battles

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This is the second part in a series on the future of the tech industry.

Competition. A word society usually reserves for hockey goalies and quarterbacks, something that has turned children’s sports from a learning experience to a win or else mentality.

It’s not a word associated with the techies of Silicon Valley.

But the competition is there. Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook are eager to be known as the innovator in the tech world. Their projects are conducted with a type of secrecy that could rival the Manhattan Project — and with good reason. The companies can’t release a new product without half a dozen imitators preparing to enter the field themselves.

Each of these four companies is dominating at least one segment of the tech world, allowing them to challenge their enemies in whatever industry they see fit.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the competition between the individual companies.

Facebook vs. Google

At first look, it doesn’t seem like Facebook engages in too many battles with other tech companies. Myspace, Facebook’s former archenemy, is now a shell of its former self, with Mark Zuckerberg having fully won the war for America’s social media.

But, Facebook does have a major hill to climb in the battle for online advertising, something Google has dominated for years.

Sumana Chattopadhyay, an assistant professor in broadcast and electronic communication, said Facebook is trying new ways to bring advertising to its site because its users ignore the ads posted on the side of their walls.

“In terms of advertising, Facebook is yet to be a competitor to Google,” she said in an e-mail.

Yet Barrett McCormick, chair of the political science department, said Facebook’s popularity means people spend less time doing Google searches, which limits Google’s ability to sell advertising.

“Google now wishes that they had done a better job of developing social networking platforms,” McCormick said in an e-mail.

Microsoft vs. Apple

Before the Internet, there was Apple and Microsoft. And the war between Macintosh and PC was legendary.

And their rivalry has continued to this day.

“I think Microsoft and (Apple) are still two of the most competitive tech companies out there, thanks to the dominance of Windows and PCs and Apple computers,” Chattopadhyay said.

Apple has managed to move beyond the computer industry, however, creating megahits like the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

“Microsoft has not found a product to offer tough competition to some of these Apple products yet,” Chattopadhyay said.

Scott D’Urso, an assistant professor of communication studies, said Microsoft is moving more toward the personal media industry in an attempt to challenge Apple.

“Their recent partnership with Nokia to develop better smart phones might be one indication of where Microsoft is headed,” D’Urso said in an e-mail.

Google vs. Microsoft

This battle pits old against new, the darling of the 1980s business world against the success story of the 21st century. Microsoft was once seen as Google is now — an exciting, innovative company where young engineers were busy creating the next big product.

That is not the case anymore.

“Microsoft has lost a step or two in the past few years in terms of competitiveness,” D’Urso said. “They started to get a reputation as a large, cumbersome organization that could not quickly adapt to changes in the marketplace or in the technological landscape.

Hence the reason Microsoft took so long to introduce Bing, a product slowly eating away at Google’s 65 percent share of the search engine market.

“Google is still ‘it’ when it comes to search engines, though Bing from Microsoft is making a dent into Google’s dominance,” D’Urso said.

Google and Microsoft are also clashing in the personal media industry, where Google’s Android phones are quickly becoming one of the top smart phones in the land, while Microsoft’s Zune player and Windows Phone have yet to take the public by storm.

“I would say that Google in many ways has already surpassed Microsoft in the media industry,” D’Urso said. “Microsoft has tried for years to get a foothold in this area, but nothing really took.”

Look for part 3 of the Tech Wars series in Tuesday’s edition of the Tribune.

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