We've all been in those conversations where you are talking about some vendor positively and someone will say "I'd never use them, they are (insert derogatory comment here), or you're talking about a vendor negatively and they'll sometimes get upset as if you were saying bad things about their spouse or child (granted this mostly happens with Apple).
What had me thinking about this was a piece in my local paper, the Mercury News. It used Google, which actually has the motto "Don't Be Evil" that many of us think is outdated and should now be "Evil R' Us." That piece highlighted the number of very positive things the company does with regard to employees, relief aid, anti-slavery initiatives, clean energy and general philanthropy, and also spoke of its evil practices with regard to advertising, privacy, search bias and hacking Safari to override user privacy preferences.
While I think it is interesting that Google's good practices really have nothing to do with it as a vendor and its bad practices seem to be based on traditional greed tied to selling personal information, all vendors have good and bad aspects. If you are looking at a vendor as just good, it will likely end up leaving egg in your face. Looking at them for just the bad will often have you avoiding very real benefits.
Let's explore this using a list of common vendors.
Strong on user design and experience, very weak on discloser, partnering, and IT support. From a user perspective, as long as you don't want choice (and most actually don't, strangely enough) Apple is perfect. But depending on a critical partnership to work or expecting it to even care about IT (at least with Jobs at the helm) would be a foolish mistake. This last is likely to change under Tim Cook but has not changed yet, so it's best used in a BYOD (bring your own device) environment and worst where IT needs to maintain high control or where solutions need to be heavily managed centrally or sold as server + PC bundles (it has no server anymore).
BMC is undergoing a transition. Historically a large mainframe software vendor focused on very large companies, it has opened up, through acquisition, the midmarket. Its acquisition history is a bit mixed, but there are no current reports of customer problems, which suggests it is performing well in large midmarket companies and enterprises. Its recent acquisition of Numara should, once it settles, allow the company to expand into the broad midmarket, and it is not appropriate for small business. A tightly focused company, it is one of the most highly regarded in its focus area of system management and would not make a good general contractor for a large deployment outside of its core competencies.
Cisco is the dominant provider of networking hardware, still mostly a networking pure play, and it is under substantial margin pressure from HP at the moment, which is putting the firm under heavy stress. It has lines that extend from consumer to large enterprise but don't seem to be able to grasp the consumer business. Strangely enough, like a lot of networking vendors, its consumer and small business products don't live up to the standards of its corporate offerings (it is interesting to note that in consumer, Apple's networking products often rank higher). Strong on hardware, it is expanding its software side, but the sales force is still largely tied to box sales. It's best in large businesses, but I'm seeing a lot of executive bleeding at the moment, which typically means executive relationships are at risk.
Dell is doubling down on its midmarket and has strengthening server, services and software targeted at this segment. Comparatively weak in software but with increasing investments, Dell may be one of the strongest choices for a midmarket company, but likely is best as a backup vendor for a large enterprise given this midmarket focus. However, as a backup vendor in a large enterprise, or one of several, it might actually be better than one of the other enterprise vendors because it is less likely to create conflict in order to displace the dominant vendor. Dell is still founder-lead, which means, strategically, you can trust its corporate roadmaps better than most as founders typically think more strategically.