Summary: Yes Microsoft is a Web 2.0 company, because their goal is to use the Web as a Platform. The difference is they'll use the Web as a Platform via millions of Windows-run 'devices'. That'll be their interface into Web 2.0.
The Yahoo Search team has a vision called FUSE - which stands for Find, Use, Share, and Expand. Apparently it represents the use of search "to fuse a myriad of services and applications". Basically, search is the center of the universe for Yahoo - and Google too.
Compare this to Microsoft, which has at the center of its universe the Windows OS. Microsoft is currently celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Windows Operating System (OS) and in a recent Microsoft press release Jim Allchin, the Group VP of Platforms, updates us on Microsoft's vision:
"Our initial vision was "A PC on every desk and in every home." Now we’re envisioning a PC for every person and in every room – almost in every nook and cranny."
Well I don't particularly want Microsoft to be in all my nooks and crannies. They've certainly targeted the nooks and crannies of many an Internet company over the years (Netscape especially)! But seriously, what this vision entails is that Microsoft want to have Windows running on a multitude of Internet-connected devices in the future.
Back to Yahoo's search-centered vision. John Battelle writes:
"...at the center of the idea of FUSE is what's happening to media - how every single medium - music, TV, print, telecom, even our first versions of the web - is being remixed and reordered by Web 2.0. It's an old saw, but mass media really is becoming my media - through RSS, podcasting, iTunes, Tivo, blogs, and many innovations to come. And central to navigating a my media world is search. Hence, the FUSE vision holds water for me - search is not just about a web index. It's about my interface to the world."
Yahoo and Google are both basically Internet services companies - and no doubt both sees its search platform as the center of a "my media" universe. How does this compare to Microsoft, who are still essentially a device-dependent company?
While the main 'device' over the past 20 years has of course been the Personal Computer, Microsoft recognizes that in future other devices will be more important - mobile, television, so-called "media centers". They may still call them PCs, but these devices will be much more varied than in the past 20 years.
Is Microsoft a Web 2.0 company, like Yahoo and Google?
Yes Microsoft is a Web 2.0 company, because their goal is to use the Web as a Platform. The difference is they'll use the Web as a Platform VIA millions of Windows-run 'devices'. That'll be their interface into Web 2.0. Microsoft is doing this instead of going the direct route - as Yahoo and Google are - through search engines and all the usual Web 2.0 technologies (RSS, Web Services, APIs, etc).
Oh Microsoft will do things in those domains too (e.g. start.com), but the Windows OS is at the heart of Microsoft's Web 2.0 strategy.
The way I see it, Microsoft really has no choice but to try and dominate Web 2.0. Much as they corralled Web 1.0 via Windows and the Internet Explorer browser.
So will the center of the Web 2.0 universe turn out to be Longhorn, the next generation Windows OS? Well if Microsoft gets its new OS onto millions and millions of Web-connected devices over the next few years, then they'll essentially control all those "my media" interfaces to the Web 2.0 world.
Don't count Microsoft out of Web 2.0 yet.