Tech rivals Microsoft, Google to join forces at Global Competitiveness Forum

Article published on Jan. 24, 2015
Article published on Jan. 24, 2015

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

It’s not every day that business competitors come together, especially those as well-known and rivalrous as Google and Microsoft.

However, the technology giants will both be represented later this January, at the eighth annual Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The forum, organized by pre-eminent event planner and strategic consultancy Richard Attias & Associates to take place Jan. 25-27, is a meditation on business expansion and competitiveness within both Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region at large. It includes global business and political leaders, leading intellectuals and local and international journalists.

The event bills itself as one-of-a-kind, and it must be to bring together tech heavyweights Microsoft and Google. Google is one of two strategic partners of the event, along with Porsche, and the company’s executive director, Eric Schmidt, will speak at the event. Joining him on the list of speakers is Ali Faramawy, a Microsoft vice president and the company’s director of operations for the Middle East and Africa.

Ever since Google rose to prominence as a young, ambitious search engine, Microsoft’s market share has been under threat and the software company has responded in kind. Despite having a large, overlapping audience which uses both Google and Microsoft products, there has been animosity and backbiting between the two companies over the years. The companies have in recent years upped their rivalry and boast a slew of cross-platform controversies. On mobile, there was the fight over the YouTube app’s unavailability -- and eventual re-release -- on Microsoft-powered phones. On the desktop, Google Chrome, the cross-platform web browser recently adopted by many Microsoft Windows users in lieu of Microsoft browser Internet Explorer, has caused yet another rift between the two companies.

Now, Microsoft and Google are taking the fight to the clouds -- specifically, the cloud. A recent survey indicated that businesses were narrowly preferring Microsoft’s cloud computing services -- Azure and Office365 -- to Google’s Google Cloud offerings. Nonetheless, the race is on for cloud dominance, and it is clear Microsoft and Google are up to the challenge.

So why, then, are these two bitter rivals sending top company brass to January’s summit? In short: All is fair in love, war and emerging market business expansion. Both Google and Microsoft are looking to gain are more permanent and substantial footing in the Middle East region, and there is no greater networking opportunity than a conference attended by high-ranking government ministers and their peers in business, academia and science.

There are also less selfish, business-driven reasons for their participation here, including the chance to continue developing the economies of, demanding better government accountability for, and improving the quality of life in the participating Middle Eastern and African nations.

Then there is the fact that by its very name, the Global Competitiveness Forum is perfectly suited to Microsoft and Google, two of the modern business world’s most notorious competitors. For a summit intended to analyze the various theories and manifestations of competitiveness, there are no better companies to demonstrate how competition plays out on the highest echelon of the business world.