Schooled by Scoble, and my response

Scoble commented on my piece yesterday on MSN Virtual Earth and gently points out, through a link to the Channel 9 interview with the team behind Virtual Earth, that there’s considerably more to the new offering than following what Google did with Google Maps. I agree; certainly the eagle-eye view is impressive (if not destined for the first release; it would be rude to call it vaporware, though), as are the hybrid view and the UI work. I probably misspoke in calling this a “me-too” release; several of the features are brand-new to the market. I’m not sure that changes the main point I made, though.

Launching a product isn’t just features, it’s time to market. Shimon commented that there’s no question that Microsoft will keep innovating in this space and lap the competition. My question, as in my first post, is what took so long? Certainly the first feature, combining satellite and map in the same interface, is something that Microsoft could have done years ago. But from all appearances it took the arrival of competition for the company to deliver that value to customers.

My point is that the competition is good—for customers, for the company, and for its shareholders. And that brings me dangerously close to a hobbyhorse that I’ve been on and off for a long time. Microsoft can’t be the only company in a space and still deliver maximum value, because it generally does its best work in response to competition. That’s not a reflection on the company’s technical skills but on its great organizational strength: the way it responds to a challenge.