I agree with you. It's an interesting argument but Kelly is trying way too hard to make the parallel.
For one thing, ad revenue is certainly slowing down for Google but Google only got into ad revenue grudgingly. I don't remember what gobsmacking amount of revenue it's estimated Google foregoes by leaving the ads off the landing page, but it's a fearsome amount. Page and Brin didn't start Google because they wanted to make a shit-ton of money, they started it because they wanted to engineer the world a better place (and like all engineers, they know best...right...?). The gobsmacking coffers of money are a side-effect.
For another, Google has never been about monetizing the user side, they've always been about monetizing the B2B and even that has been half-hearted at best. One look at the Android Marketplace or the Play Store and it's abundantly clear Google doesn't have the first fucking clue about merchant services. The App Store isn't perfect but Play is a Kowloon night market by comparison. What they do best is disrupt inefficient markets... which is why I think they pushed so hard into location services. They recognized that it would be a BFD in 10-20 years and victory would belong to anyone who did the early investing. "Self-driving cars" are whizz-bang futuretech if you aren't paying attention, but the Killer App for location services if you are... and nobody is going to use Apple Maps on an autonomous vehicle. Google has the data. Apple doesn't. Trimble doesn't. OpenStreetMaps doesn't. If they want to hit you up for a $2000 license for every vehicle that rolls off your assembly line, you will pay it. Period.
Finally, Forbes is really grading on a curve when it comes to Microsoft. I mean,
In 2015 Satya Nadella led Microsoft has become a progressive, open, web services company.
It's February, dawg. They've cut 14% of their workforce since nine months ago. Eighteen months ago the company wrote down nearly a billion dollars in losses on the Surface, which nobody still gives a shit about by the way. Spartan is the replacement for the browser that even your mother stopped using three years ago and while Microsoft is giving away Windows 10 for free, that makes them the last software vendor to do so, not the first.
Meanwhile, Kelly is snarking about a $30 monetization of Google Cardboard, which was basically developed to make Oculus look retarded, while championing Windows Holographic, which was basically developed to make the Nintendo Power Glove look cool. And while I haven't used Windows Holographic, I have used both Google Cardboard and Oculus VR and lemme tell ya -
Cardboard makes Oculus look wicked retarded. If the whole point was to make Facebook look stupid for spending $2bln on a company that doesn't quite accomplish the snappy feel of holding a phone to your face, they hit that one out of the park.
I think Google still has missteps to make. I'm not at all comfortable with their general business philosophy. But I'm not about to point to Microsoft and say "they just bought two email apps I've never heard of, they're the ones to beat."