The last few weeks saw two announcements from two giants in the ITC industry: Google and Microsoft. In fact, within a day of each other, Google presented its concept of a Web-based communications platform called "Google Wave" and Microsoft followed suit by announcing the revamp and rebranding of its Live Search into "Bing".
So why do I say that these announcements are addressing the shortcomings of these companies? Well, as far as Microsoft goes, the answers are pretty straightforward. Live Search never really caught on as a search engine, and it has clearly been a strategic disadvantage for the company that it has not been able to rival the global search engine market shares of Google, Yahoo and regional shares of Baidu and others. Bing is clearly designed to change that. Not only has Microsoft changed the name and the design of the search interface - it is also supposedly a move towards a more semantic search engine that seeks to give answers to questions posed by the user rather than just providing a series of links as search results. The idea is not new. At the beginning of this year, Ask.com announced they would focus on this technology and Microsoft itself implemented limited semantic search functionality in its Live Search. And of course, Google has not been resting on its search laurels; the search giant claims to have already implemented semantic search in at least 37 different languages.
So will Bing be successful in addressing Microsoft's shortcomings? Only time can tell. Microsoft would probably be the first company to agree that it is easier said than done to get a real foothold in the Internet search market, but the launch of Bing certainly shows the company's dedication to this space.
Google's shortcomings are not in relation to Internet search, of course, and in fact, Google Wave has little or nothing to do with search. Wave is the company's vision of how people will and should be communicating in the future. It incorporates email, instant messaging, real-time transmissions of what is typed, multimedia integration, games integration, and others, in an interface that looks suspiciously like well... Facebook. And that is perhaps what is at the crux of it all. Even though it is touted as a new communications platform, it is perhaps really Google's way of addressing the company's major shortcoming: the lack of a social networking platform to rival those of Facebook, Friendster and others.
So will Wave succeed in addressing Google's shortcomings? Again, only time can tell. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that social network services are encroaching fast on "traditional" email and instant messaging services. And they are fast becoming a platform of choice for sharing multimedia as well. So undoubtedly, Google is seeing the strategic importance of hitting back and coming up with viable alternatives to "traditional" social networking.