A New York Times article, "Microsoft and Google: Partners or Rivals?"
that I found disturbing. Google would be so less wonderful if it was part of Microsoft. It's not just a knee jerk "I think Microsoft makes bad software so I hate them so I think they'd ruin Google" argument. I'm actually not a Microsoft hater at all; one of my best friends works there and is happy there, and I'm more comfortable with Windows than with any other system. But a big part of Google's appeal is about branding and trust. We trust them not to be evil, and we feel a comfort and aesthetic pleasure in using their very well branded and designed tools. That pleasure is not incidental. When you spend hours searching for things and people online, as I do both professionally and as a means of wasting time, that mild pleasure helps keep anxiety and ocular stress down. We are charmed by their antics because we know they are a real company of actually interesting people started by two guys. That joy will dissipate significantly if we think they've plugged into Microsofts PR machine and are utilizing the efforts of people who studied advertising in school.
That kind of sentimentality may seem functionally unimportant, but I think in the search engine world loyalty is key. If someone shows up and builds a better search engine tomorrow, I may not use it for a while because of loyalty to Google. Not very long, but a little while. But that little while might be enough time for Google to bring theirs up to par. Merge with Microsoft and they lose that buffer zone.
The other thing which is depressing about that story is the realization that when it goes public it's immediately going to become corporate. I think it would be really cool if private individuals had the savvy and resources to buy Google stock. There's a company that I'd want to invest in for good old fashioned reasons--not because I think it'll make me rich really quickly (and unfortunately, it would, which is why corporations are going to lunge after all the shares) but because I want it to succeed.
Nick points out that Microsoft is forming a search engine division, so Google might be thinking they better join up or be run out of business. With any other company I'd agree that this is the case completely. But I know really smart people who I am certain would, if given the choice between a very high paying job with Microsoft in Palo Alto and only a high paying job with Google in Palo Alto, would immediately and absolutely choose Google.