In 2003, Sergey Brin told the New York Times that he wouldn't knowingly challenge Microsoft. "Netscape antagonized Microsoft," he said. "We are not putting ourselves in the bull's eye as Netscape did." A year later, in its IPO prospectus, Google wrote, "We face significant competition from Microsoft and Yahoo!."
At first, Google insisted that it had no fight to pick with Microsoft. That gradually changed. In 2006, Eric Schmidt was asked who Google's primary competitors were:
Well, today we compete with Yahoo! all the time because they are the other company that has a targeted advertising network. And Microsoft continues to claim to enter the [search] market, but we really haven't seen them yet, they're just getting started. I'm sure eventually Microsoft will be a competitor. So it's really those three companies, Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.
"We just see the history of [Microsoft] behaving anticompetitively and... not playing fair," said Brin. "So I think we want to... look at the area where that power can be abused."
Google soon took the offense, and a bitter rivalry escalated between the companies. Not only did Google throw the gauntlet down on practically every path Microsoft was following, they opened a recruiting office not far from Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, and made raids on Microsoft's talent pool. But more significantly, it offered Google Apps, free online productivity software similar to ...