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>I don't see any significant barriers keeping a user from switching to a competing product.

This is the difference, or the similarity however you look at it, between Google and Microsoft. You claim that the barriers Microsoft put up to prevent users from switching were significant, but Google's aren't. I disagree. In the literal sense no one was locked in with Windows and users were free to install other browsers or even switch to Linux or Mac.

The complaint was that Microsoft was making it difficult for the average user to do so. That's the same complaint these companies have about Google. For you it might be an easy task to download your data from Gmail or Chrome but I'm sure for the majority of users switching search engines is just as obscure as switching browsers.

Thanks for reminding me to question my assumptions and think about my perspective. I'm going to have to ask around and try to get a sense of how some of my decidedly non-technical friends and family members view Google, search engines, etc.

I'm still not quite convinced about the Microsoft/Google parallels, though. I just spend some time reviewing the history of Microsoft litigation and behaviors in this respect. While admittedly no one was literally locked in with Windows, Microsoft had a long history of establishing artificial barriers to prevent people from leaving Microsoft products while simultaneously using that position to launch new products/services and drive competitors out of business. At the risk of sounding like a Google apologist, I feel like I'm more likely to see Google make decisions that seemingly place interoperability, standards-compliance, etc. potentially above their own business needs.

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