February 7, 2007 cameron

Napoleonic Lessons for Google and Microsoft

A friend of mine at Microsoft just sent me this article by Jawad Shuaib on Napoleonic Lessons for Google and Microsoft. I’m not sure how relevant the analogy of Napoleon is to either company, but it makes interesting reading. As an ex-Microsoft employee and a current Microsoft shareholder, I’ve often wondered how the lessons of Napoleon apply to them. I even toyed with writing a book about it a few years ago. I did hear on the internal Microsoft grapevine a few times over the years that their CEO, Steve Ballmer, has an interest in Napoleonic history. As he lives an hour away from David, I think we should get him onto the show sometime.

Here’s an excerpt from Jawad’s article:

Google, today, is the undisputed champion of the online world. Before long, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo! and eBay maneuvered to encapsulate Google’s ever-growing strength. Over two hundred years ago, Emperor Napoleon, the Google of his day, found himself in a similar situation. Russia, Prussia, Austria and Britain had decided to go to war. It takes more energy to take land than to hold it. Throughout history, defensive tactics have won more battles than the aggressors. After the first wave of siege, the aggressor loses the advantage of surprise attack and leaves himself exposed to a counter attack. The defender can clearly see his strategy and take protective action. Napoleon’s most celebrated victory, the battle of Austerlitz was a counter attack, defeating a larger army with a kill ratio of 15 to 1. A defensive position has become the perfect way to disguise an offensive maneuver, a counter attack. Google has repeatedly asserted that it is not interested in competing with other businesses; it is a web search business only. They have used this facade to make Microsoft’s concerns with the company seem paranoid; a clever move that worked. The fact remains that Google is a powerful secretive company, driven by smart people, and for a cause.

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