Of the total solutions vendors IBM is the most trusted and it has the most powerful potential weapon. Its overarching strategy is to drive intelligence into systems and it not only has the most powerful global and well-marketed strategy in Smarter Planet, it has the leading intelligence-focused systems. Its most visible is Watson, but in the labs it is the only vendor in its class working aggressively on artificial intelligence. This is the equivalent of the U.S. Manhattan Project and it has at least a decade lead on anyone else in this space.
Truly intelligent systems could create the same dynamic that drove IBM to dominate the tech market in the early years because related solutions would directly make related customers more successful, providing an unmatched value proposition. In health care, having systems that provide a better diagnosis; in financial systems, more successful investments; in defense, more effective battle plans; and in law, unmatched rapid discovery (all markets currently targeted by Watson) would be nearly impossible to compete with. If that same capability is applied to provisioning, power/resource management, threat detection and mitigation, etc., the same likely would be true.
Oracle has the most effective sales force. These folks will do whatever it takes to close a deal and Oracle is the most aggressive with regard to locking in customers once acquired. It also has a reputation of personally assuring the careers of those who help it and the implication is that those who block it may find the opposite to be true. Oracle appears to pull more revenue out of its accounts in relation to its account footprint than anyone else in its class. In terms of trust it is the opposite of IBM; in terms of customer focus, the opposite of EMC, which makes it the most powerful vendor tactically in this class, but the weakest as a strategic solution (outside of career management).
The fact that it has been successful selling hardware that came from a failing company (Sun), which is on record saying it isn't competitive, showcases both the strength of Oracle's sales force and its account control. Every company wants to maximize revenue from an account; only Oracle in this class is focused like a laser on doing exactly that and it is incredibly successful getting this done.
Let's be clear, of this group, Oracle scares the hell out of me, but I also know that out of all these vendors the only one that I've seen carve through a bid process to win deals where it wasn't competitive is Oracle. So in terms of competitive weapons, Oracle tactically may well be the most powerful.
HP is the broadest vendor but also the least focused of this set and that works against it. But as a one-stop shop and one that is focused on broad, one-vendor-solution integration with a green edge, it is unmatched.
Strategically, IBM and EMC stand out - EMC for creating a model where customers seek the company out for the quality of the relationship and IBM for its focus on intelligent systems, which is the most likely to result in segment dominance.
Finally, Dell's midmarket focus is unique and it serves as the benchmark for how to grow through acquisitions successfully.