The Herald Bulletin

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April 10, 2013

Microsoft assault on Google shows industry shift

(Continued)

SAN FRANCISCO —

Google says it shares a limited amount of personal information about Android apps customers to ensure they get better service and faster responses if any problems arise. The company says the practice is allowed under its terms of service — a document that most people rarely read in its entirety.

Microsoft says it doesn't pass along personal details about customers buying apps for devices running its Windows Phone software. But there aren't as many Windows Phone users or apps for that system as there are for Android.

The notion of Microsoft being well behind Google once seemed inconceivable.

A decade ago, Microsoft was the world's most powerful technology company, with its Windows operating system and Office productivity software pervasive on personal computers. Microsoft's dominance had grown so extensive that U.S. and European antitrust regulators spent years trying to rein in the Redmond, Wash., software company.

Although Google was growing rapidly at the time, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and other skeptics dismissed the company as a "one-trick pony" that hadn't proven adept at doing anything besides searching the Web and selling ads next to the results.

Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., has since morphed into a multi-faceted juggernaut relentlessly trying to muscle into new markets. The company now runs the world's most watched online video service in YouTube, the largest email service in Gmail and the most widely used operating system for mobile devices in Android. All of those services provide more opportunities to show the ads that generate the bulk of Google's revenue. Google is now the company facing the scrutiny of regulators — and Microsoft has been active in making those complaints, including the one announced Tuesday.

"Google is certainly the biggest challenge that Microsoft has ever had to deal with," said Michael Cusumano, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management and author of several books about Microsoft.

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