Does Google even consider Microsoft a competitor?

There has already been plenty written about the launch of what Google is calling Chromebooks – netbooks running Chrome OS – and what this means for the future of the PC. I don’t intend to add to that in this post, but I did want to make one observation from the launch at Google’s I/O developer conference this week.

When Google made its announcement, it opened with a jokey slide showing its Android character eating an Apple. No mention of Microsoft. So who does Google actually see as its competition?

Clearly Microsoft is too big a beast to go away, despite all the debate over the future of the PC. But it’s interesting to see how the dynamics of the IT industry have shifted and who the new players such as Google and Apple see as their rivals. Of course they would be foolish to discount Microsoft, but the atmosphere reminds me of the late 1980s when the big PC players – Microsoft, Compaq et al – were equally dismissive of IBM. A few years later, IBM announced what was then the biggest loss in corporate history.

IBM is still here and is thriving, but it’s a very different company today. Microsoft will still be here even if we’re all using Chromebooks/netbooks and tablet computers in 10 years, but if it is still as influential at that time, it will also have to be very different to the company it is today.