The Curious Case Of Microsoft, Google And The Giraffe’s Neck

Richard Dawkins is perhaps one of the most famous atheists, with his popular books, including The God Delusion becoming best sellers over recent years. Last year he featured in a UK TV series called Inside Nature’s Giants in which a range of experts from numerous fields dissected some of our largest animals, from the Whale, to the Elephant, and also including a Giraffe.

The giraffe’s neck has intrigued man ever since the species was first discovered – how did it get so long? Depending on your attitude to religion and evolutionary theory it was either created that way, or it has evolved over many, many years.

[caption id="attachment_8833" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Giraffe\'s are like Microsoft!"]Giraffe's are like Microsoft![/caption]

Richard Dawkins featured on the programme to help dissect the giraffe’s neck and demonstrate why he believes in evolutionary theory. The laryngeal nerve supplies motor function and sensation to the larynx (the voice box). It takes a slightly roundabout route going down the neck to the thorax, and then travelling back up to the larynx. In most animals therefore it doesn’t have a huge distance to travel.

However, in Giraffe’s the laryngeal nerve travels a very long way, as the nerve leaves the brain, and goes all the way down to the bottom of the neck and then all the way back up again to the larynx – a distance of many metres.

Richard Dawkins’ assertion is that any intelligent design would have just drawn a short line from A to B. Only evolution, taking place in very small steps, over many thousands of years would have gradually lengthened the neck, along with the nerve inside it – unable to see that the nerve itself should remain as a short direct link.

I see huge similarities with the technology industry today, as the massive Enterprises of the past decade try and evolve their business model into the Cloud. Microsoft declare that “We’re all in the Cloud”.

In my mind I’m seeing the Giraffe’s neck. As the market has developed, evolution has added more products to the Microsoft portfolio. More features in each product, more complexity for end users, more cost for clients.

When I speak to customers of all sizes about Google Apps – more often than not I hear “Microsoft can do that.”, “We just VPN in”, “We’re deploying Sharepoint”, “We use Outlook Web Access”, “We’re looking at Microsoft Dynamics and BPOS”.

The evolutionary journey has meant that it is possible to get from A to B with traditional software providers. At some point though business owners and their IT teams need to take a step back and ask “Is there a better, quicker, cheaper way of getting from A to B?”

I’m certain of this because of the number of times I hear “Well of course, if we were starting today we wouldn’t do it like this – we’d be looking at Google Apps.” And pretty much every start-up I have met with over the past year is doing exactly that.

I certainly believe that over the next ten years there will be a massive transition as companies of all sizes step out, and look back into their business and realise that they don’t need the Giraffe’s neck anymore – they can get their business where it needs to go in a much better way using a Cloud vendor that was designed for the modern world businesses find themselves in.

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Charlie Cowan inspires and enables partners at NewVoiceMedia, a Salesforce Appexchange partner routing inbound calls based on CRM data. Unusually for someone in the IT industry, Charlie holds a degree in Rural Land Management from The Royal Agricultural College. He lives and works in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, with his wife and three children.

  • Dawkins is not necessarily right in his conclusion, of course. Every design draws on what went before. And every design is a compromise, aimed at delivering the best balance between mutually exclusive desirables. Which is why legacies of the past will find their way into the cloud, and why computing in the cloud will be no more perfect than before. Better in some ways, certainly. Hopefully even better overall. But anyone who expects the cloud to be heaven will surely be disappointed.

    • Hi Bruce, Thanks for your comment. You are exactly right – there are plenty who disagree with Dawkins, and I didn't want to get into the deeper discussion on Evolution on the blog. The Cloud is not the answer in itself, in my opinion it only succeeds if businesses use what it provides to run themselves in a better way.