Google's 10 toughest rivals

Apple, Microsoft and IBM among tech firms poised to ramp up competition with Google in 2010

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In September, Google introduced Google Wave, a hosted application that combines e-mail, instant messaging and document sharing. In December, Google bought AppJet  in a bid to add features to Google Wave.

In October, IBM introduced LotusLive iNotes, a Web-based e-mail, calendaring and contact service priced at $36 per user, per year in an effort to undercut Google Apps. Also this fall, IBM improved the social networking features in its LotusLive Connections, which now includes blogging, book marking and file sharing.

7. Microsoft

Google's biggest rival across the board -- in search, collaboration tools and browsers -- is Microsoft. Though it's not as dominant a player in the IT industry as it once was, Microsoft is still a fearsome rival that has racked up $56.3 billion in sales over the last four quarters.

Search

For the last decade, Google has reigned supreme in search -- at least in the United States.

The search situation may be changing with Microsoft's May 2009 release of Bing, which ranks search results based on relevancy to other users. Microsoft has inked Bing-related deals with Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo. Microsoft continued to enhance Bing, adding image search and mapping.

Google is worried enough about Bing that it is beefing up its own search capabilities. In December, Google unveiled real-time search, which include Twitter results. Google also added a photo search capability, a dictionary and a translator that finds relevant content in 40 languages. Entering 2010, Google still dominates search, with more than 70% of the market.

Collaboration

For 2010, the battle between Microsoft and Google is likely to focus on cloud-based collaboration tools.Google Apps is designed to undercut sales of Microsoft products, including Exchange and SharePoint. Microsoft has responded with Office Web Apps, free Web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that are due out in 2010. Office Web Apps is part of a push by Microsoft to embrace the hosted, subscription-based model of selling software applications. Microsoft's approach is to provide integration between its hosted applications and SharePoint, which is due for an upgrade in 2010.

Meanwhile, Google is developing real-time, cloud-based collaboration tools with Google Wave, which is in an invite-only preview mode. The developer community has responded positively to demonstrations of Google Wave, which also competes against Microsoft's overlooked Silverlight offering.

Browsers

Will 2010 spark another browser war, this time between Microsoft and Google?

Microsoft's Internet Explorer has been the premier browser since the late 1990s. Microsoft introduced version 8 of IE in March 2009, claiming it is the fastest, most stable and secure browser on the market. So far, Google's introduction of its Chrome browser -- currently in version 3 -- hasn't chipped away at Microsoft's dominance. Chrome had just 3.7% of browser market share in October, according to Janco Associates.

The question is whether this dynamic will shift when Google unveils its Chrome OS in 2010, which is designed specifically for netbooks. The first netbooks with Chrome OS installed -- including a system that Acer is developing -- aren't expected until the second half of 2010.

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