TOC Sloth versus Pride: can users escape from Evil? Your Turn

Who will follow in Milton's steps and sing of Google and Microsoft ? According to Steve Lohr (*), an epic battle is looming between the two giants and, given Google's moral outlook, one is justified to prefer Milton to Homer.

As Providence has it, Oxford Press has recently published a series of books on the seven Deadly Sins. I especially recommend their review by A.C. Grayling (**). What better introduction to the Deadly Sins than such a clear example of inflated Pride? Observe how the reviewer castigates some of the authors for being tendentious. Appreciate the unintended irony: casting the Christian tradition as a childish stage of humankind development, his analysis is as tendentious as it is enjoyable. Rest the case while Grayling denounces hypocrisy as more modern a threat.

When a publicly held company trumpets "Be not Evil", you know Pride is as present and potent as ever. Human beings may choose to be guided by a moral compass. Public companies are designed to satisfy the Greed of their owners within the laws of the land.

We beg the reader to forgive us for postponing a more in-depth analysis of Google's Greed to a later date. Today we would rather focus on Sloth.

One does not ordinarily associate Economics with Epic Poetry. And I must confess: I am no Lucretius. Yet Steve Lohr has given us the means to quantify Sloth. We ought to let his numbers talk. He reports:

  • the search-related online advertising market to be $10 Billion
  • MSN's market share of searches to be 11%
  • users able to master the four click process required by Vista to bypass Microsoft search to make up 33% of all users
The latter result, from a study sponsored by Google, is really a measure of Sloth: it means two thirds of Internet users leave unchanged the default settings of their browsers rather than do the least bit of work.
So by making MSN the default search engine of its next version of Windows, Microsoft can expect over time to capture 66% of all searches plus, all other things being equal, 11% of the remaining ones, achieving a 69% total market share, i.e. a 58% increase.
Sloth is worth $ 5.8 Billions.

The New York Times quotes John Battelle as saying: "In the long run, it's about whether you have the best service". We find this outlook optimistic. The economic interests of Sin are as varied as they are powerful. Isn't Dante better known for his Inferno, Milton for his Paradise Lost?

Philippe Coueignoux

  • (*)
    • New Microsoft Browser Raises Google's Eyebrow, by Steve Lohr (New York Times) - May 1, 2006
    • Microsoft and Google Set to Wage Arms Race, by Steve Lohr and Saul Hansell (New York Times) - May 2, 2006
  • (**) Greed can indeed be good, by A.C. Grayling (Financial Times) - April 29/30, 2006
May 2006
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