As those of you who read my columns regularly will testify, I am a great supporter of the underdog. There’s nothing I like more than when a company comes out of no where and provides real competition against one that has been established for a long period of time and is considered to have a monopoly in their particular market.

There is one primary reason for this way of thinking which is that it almost always benefits the consumer. Companies like AMD who produce processors and were once relatively small are now seriously competing against Intel which is resulting in technologies being continuously pushed forward and prices lowered as the two companies battle it out for market share. Had Intel retained its monopoly I’m sure that PC’s would not be at the level of speed and affordability they are today and the fact that AMD managed to eat into this market on what was a comparatively shoe-string budget is commendable.

To put to you another example, let us consider the Royal Mail; some would say that the current hold they have on the UK’s postal service is bad for consumers as it doesn’t allow us any choice in who we can pick if we want to send a letter. As there is no competition they are pretty safe in that no matter how good or bad the service they will still retain customers as there is little other choice available.

I think my love for the ‘little guy’ stems from the fact that my company is one; I started several years back with nothing but student debts and am now eating away at some of the larger companies market share by distributing thousands of low priced cartridges every week whilst still making a tidy profit. When you can buy a cartridge from companies such as Refresh Cartridges for £1.50 it makes it a lot more difficult for the more established companies to charge £25 for a similar product which can only benefit the end user.

Whilst I have spent half my word allowance getting to this point I am going somewhere so do bear with me as I wish for the remainder on this article to be spent discussing the search engine Google. This is a company that has enjoyed a sizable market share for the past few years and is currently by far the most popular search engine and has all but killed off all competitors such as AltaVista and Lycos. Most people that have even the most basic knowledge of computers have set as their default homepage and quite rightly so.

I do believe that Google are now resting on their laurels somewhat as there has been little improvement in the product for sometime now and so the industry is long overdue a shake-up if search engine technology is going to continue to advance. Microsoft recently released their new search engine MSN Search which is perhaps just what the industry was looking for and whilst I support it as this search engine should provide serious competition to Google I am wary that Microsoft will use its old tricks by throwing unreasonable amounts of money at this product rather than allowing it to gain market share by relying on technical superiority. I will resent the fact that all copies of Windows will come with MSN search as the default search engine and that they will probably devise a way to integrate its search abilities directly into Windows whilst offering little opportunity to change to a competitor.

MSN search does have a few nice features such as the ability to rank search results based on their popularity or when they were last updated and does currently allow you to search the Encarta
encyclopaedia directory although it is possible they may start charging for this in the future.

Whilst MSN search is now typically the ‘little guy’ I spoke of above in the fact that currently very few people use it and they are trying to dent a large market share owned by a single company this is a very different scenario as the parent company Microsoft does have a bottomless pit of money to throw at this project to ensure that it succeeds.

To summarize I am encouraging you to embrace MSN Search and do try it out to see if it is for you by heading to as I believe the market stare of Google is currently too large. Do be aware however that in these times when Microsoft appears to be moving into all territories we must be careful to always ensure that friendly competition can exist between companies and as such we must try to also use competitors products to ensure that one company does not remove every competitor from the market place by outspending them all.

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