[sc:internet-category ]A friend the other day asked me what I considered the “best” online provider. We’re not talking about an ISP, but instead a web-based company that provides the services you use everyday. This question is really several questions all rolled up in to one, so let’s break it down shall we?
First, what are the qualifiers for best?
- Has multiple service offerings (since service sites like Twitter and Facebook don’t count)
- Owns the components it is offering (sorry Yahoo)
- Quality of services
- Privacy policies
- Company Foundations
Let’s tackle them one at a time…
Multiple Service Offerings
Any online provider these days gives you basic e-mail, but what about the other things you want. Search, storage space, maps, maybe some office style applications?
The two big names here are Microsoft and Google. I’m not that familiar with Apple’s offerings, but they too have some of these covered. Services like Yahoo fit in here two as their sheer breadth of services boggle the mind.
Microsoft has come on strong in the last little while in this space and Google has made some “interesting” choices (like their recent move to drop IE8 support). I’d have to call it a tie between the two these days, they both offer a lot of services for free (half a point each).
Owns the components it is offering
This category kind of is here to trim the field from the above. At the end of the day Microsoft and Google invest huge amounts in to their services and build them from the ground up. Many of the competing providers just can’t do that. I’ll give Apple an honorable mention here as they do invest in their own services, sometimes to the detriment of their users 😉
I’m going to just give this one to Google (one point for Google), Microsoft does partner with some others like Nokia to deliver some of their services, but it is very close either way.
At this point I’m only going to focus on the two companies that really made it through the first two rounds, Microsoft and Google.
Quality of Services
Both MS and Google take service quality seriously and even a little as a month ago I would have handed this to Google just because they keep moving their products forward much faster than Microsoft. However with the introduction of Outlook.com and a series of updates to most of their online properties, I’m going to call this one a tie instead (half a point each).
And here’s where it gets interesting, Microsoft and Google have very different opinions about your privacy. Google looks at users as a source of revenue and uses any and all information it has about you to sell ads. It’s Google’s Achilles heel, they only have one source of revenue and it is their task master. The recent combination of all their privacy polices across all their services shows how focused they are on this aspect of their business.
While Microsoft isn’t a saint, in comparison they look pretty good. So I’m giving this one to Microsoft (one point for MS). In the end it’s the lesser evil.
See above, Google is crippled in this area in the same way. To protect its revenue stream it is very secretive just about everything.
Microsoft has always played it tight to the vest, but they have nothing on Google in this area.
This one goes to MS as well (one point for MS).
Doing a quick search I didn’t find anyone tracking uptime of the major providers, but I think it’s safe to say that both have pretty good uptime numbers. On a personal note I seem to hear about more Google outages than Microsoft, but that isn’t definitive.
I’m going with a tie on this one (half a point each).
This is kind of a catch all, both companies are massive enterprises that make boat loads of money each year, but there is a difference between the two. Microsoft has a diverse portfolio of products and services that make them money. Windows, Office, Exchange, SQL, Xbox, etc are all big money makers and if any one of them failed Microsoft would continue to exist.
Google on the other hand is a one trick pony, virtually all of their profits come from their advertising business. If that were to ever falter, the rest would not be able to continue.
This one goes to Microsoft (one point for MS).
And the tally is… Microsoft:4.5 Google:2.5
There you go, for me at least Microsoft is the best online provider. But of course that’s only my opinion 😉