Thursday, March 08, 2007

Battle of the Titans

In the world of Digital Content Distribution, battle lines are being drawn and companies are starting to shoot salvos across the bows of each other. At the AAP General Annual Meeting, representatives from Adobe, and Microsoft had their moments at the podium, and just a few blocks away, Google was making all kinds of noise as well.

At the AAP meeting, Bruce Chizen, CEO of Adobe, was asked about what kept him up at night. His response was “Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft, and, ah… Microsoft”. He went on to explain that Microsoft was this $50 Billion behemoth who might see that Adobe was starting to eat their lunch when it came to some of the products they were offering. Adobe, is a $3 Billion company whose products can be found on virtually every personal computer in the world. I thought that he was going to say that he was worried Microsoft would just outright purchase Adobe, but he didn’t.

What Bruce did go on to say was that Google serves as an enormous “heat shield” that distracts Microsoft from worrying about Adobe, and that allows him some measure of rest at night.

Later in the day, Bruce’s comments were validated by Tom Rubin of Microsoft, (click this link for the full text of his speech) who was there to talk about the Live Book Search program. Tom repeatedly said that he wasn’t there to attack Google, but anyone in the audience could literally feel the antagonism coming from Mr. Rubin as the name ‘Google’ crossed his lips. His main argument was that Google pays no attention to the rights of copyright holders, while Microsoft does. He also slammed their business model by essentially saying that Google will take publishers content and essentially put ads around it to monetize that content. Microsoft says that their approach is more altruistic, working with publishers to jointly make money by facilitating the sales of both traditional books as well as e-books.

Meanwhile at the Book Business show (formerly known as BookTech), Jim Gerber of Google was trashing Microsoft. I wasn’t there for that one, but as I understand it the gist is that Google feels that they are bringing more visitors to a publishers books through their program than Microsoft, and it isn’t costing the publisher a penny. This was covered in PW and Publishers Lunch.

In a world where publishers are going to have to deal with all of these companies, and also Amazon, and Yahoo! when it comes to distributing their content, none of this cross-town bickering bodes well. In order to deal with them all, some semblance of data transmission standards will need to be in place, but from the looks of things, it doesn’t appear that we’ll be able to get most of these folks around the same table.

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