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Charles on… anything that comes along

Wednesday 16 November 2005

Filed under: — Charles @ 11:51 pm

In this week’s Independent: who started the internet’s musical chairs game?

Penultimate column! This week at The Independent I’ve been musing on how quickly everything is changing about what companies portray themselves as doing online.

A few years ago, you knew where you were in computing. Microsoft made the software that powered pretty much everything computer-y you’d come into direct contact with, such as PCs. Palm did handhelds. Mobile phones were just phones. And Google did a web search engine.

Now? Well, where to start… Google does maps, satellite photos, e-mail, instant messaging, voice-over-internet phone calls, a free program to analyse website traffic (Google Analytics, launched this week), news searching, a shopping service and free blogging software (through

Palm is vanishing into a rump, and Microsoft is becoming dominant in handhelds. Mobile phones are getting more computer-like every day, taking pictures and playing music and videos; I now use mine for all my personal calendar and to-do lists, superseding my old Palm.

And Microsoft? Well, Microsoft is gamely trying to transform itself into something that doesn’t just do bits of software you have to stick into a computer’s CD-rom drive, or download off the internet. It’s trying to transform itself into a “services” company - in effect, to become a new Google or Yahoo!.

But can Microsoft really transform itself? Or will the Live project tear it apart - as a judge once wanted to do?

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