For anyone approaching middle age, the now-defunctcorporate brands of Herman's World of Sporting Goods and Pergament Home Centerswill surely evoke a twinge of nostalgia - particularly for those hailing fromthe New York region.

For years, they were arguably the most recognizedproviders of their particular inventories in the Big Apple and its surroundingareas - namely all things sporting goods and materials for the do-it-yourselfhomeowner.

But as diverse as their product lines were, they alsoshared two dubious qualities - namely piss-poor customer service and arrogance- deadly nouns that ultimately led to their extinction.

In examples that should be used in textbooks for highschool business classes across the country, each company refused to faceencroaching challenges from big-box retailers, imposing forces with far greaterresources and trained personnel who actually cared about customers.

For Herman's their competitive gargantua was The SportsAuthority, and for Pergament, it was the eventual penetration into Northeasternmarkets by The Home Depot and later, Lowe's.

A scant few years later, both had earned tombstones inthe widening graveyard of fellow retailers who eschewed the challenge of newcompetition.

The Herman's/Pergament saga came rushing back to me lastweek, as tech blogs across the country were frenzied with the news that onlinesearch engine Google was preparing to launch an operating system for PCs - adirect shot across the bow to that large technology company up in Redmond,Wash.

Now, according to those far more familiar with thesituation than myself, the initial software will be "lightweight" andtarget lower-end portables like netbooks. Apparently Google's new foray will bebased on its Chrome Web browser and be available in the second half of nextyear.

According to Google, the target strategy of this effortis to highlight the problems of PC operating systems such as security anddelays in starting up.

While for now, the company revealed that it will focus onthe lower-powered portables, does anyone doubt that it will ultimatelyratchet-up the software to accommodate a full-blown PC?

Google currently generates some 97 percent of its revenuefrom online advertising, but in recent years has been unveiling software thatruns on Web browsers - as opposed to being downloaded.

Now my shaky familiarity with all things technology hasbeen well documented in this space, but at this point even I can opine withreasonable assurance that Google is a long way from hacking away at Microsoft'smarket dominance. And I've heard and read from more than a few about a numberof fault lines in Google's other software like Android.

And yet, decades later I can recall in annoying detail,either unsuccessfully looking for sales help, or waiting eternally on glacialcheckout lines at both Herman's and Pergament and nothing being done to improveeither.

I'm quite sure former executives at both could nowpainfully lecture corporate America on the dangers of ignoring competitivethreats.

No matter how big or small.

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