Even though Microsoft has a search engine, Google and Microsoft don't often get portrayed as competitors in the press. Redmondmag explored the complex relationship that Google has with the open-source community, and answers the question: "What's the greatest threat to Microsoft's dominance, Google or open source? " with a resounding "both."
Google's links with this increasingly serious rival to Internet Explorer [Firefox] go much deeper, however. Google is the main search engine for Firefox, both in the dedicated search box and on the default homepage when Firefox is first installed.
In October 2007, it was revealed that the organization behind Firefox, namely the Mozilla Foundation, had earned around $66 million in 2006 from its business relationships with search engines. That's up from about $50 million the previous year. That means that Google, by far the most important of those paying for search queries, is effectively underwriting the development of Firefox and Thunderbird, Mozilla's rival to Microsoft Outlook, and hence quietly chipping away at Microsoft's position in the browser and e-mail markets.
Google has also started hosting high-level meetings where key free software individuals from a project can come together to meet face-to-face -- something that otherwise happens quite rarely. For example, in November 2006, senior coders working on the Ubuntu distribution (the one used by Dell Inc. for its consumer PCs running GNU/Linux) gathered on Google's campus; the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit was held there in June 2007; and in September 2007, leading Python developers met up to work on version 3 of that language. Python is one of the three programming languages used extensively by Google (the other two are Java and C++), and its creator, Guido van Rossum, also works for Google.
If licensing of a proprietary OS, office software, and the prominence of their web browser is lost to Microsoft, what exactly would they have left? Playing Halo3 on Microsoft's Xbox360 is a blast, but it isn't going to keep the lights on in Redmond. Google appears to be quietly putting open-source sticky grenades on Microsoft's cash cows, then waiting, knowing they'll all go off eventually.