The major IT vendors have always been to one degree or another involved in skullduggery and intrigue when it comes to deciding when to cooperate with each other and when to compete.
On a field level, practicality that is usually forced on the vendors wins the day, resulting in agreements to work together and higher levels of interoperability. But back in the boardroom, the mantra is still growth at all costs. And what’s interesting to watch as we head into 2010 is how overt many major vendors have become about taking over somebody else’s patch in order to satisfy the demands of investors on Wall Street.
Those demands may not be of material interest to customers. But they do drive how vendors not only market themselves, but also ultimately what types of companies they move to acquire. What follows is an overview of the major battles that will shape the IT landscape in 2010 and beyond.
#10 – Verizon versus AT&TThis battle gets played on commercial television every day, but in reality the race is going to be won by the company that delivers the first effective 4G network. We can already see users complaining about the quality of their smartphone experience. The carrier that effectively solves that problem first will not only win the hearts of consumers, but also the minds of corporations that are becoming increasingly dependent on mobile computing to boost productivity.
#9 – SAP versus Salesforce.comThis is the year that SAP, after being kicked in the shins by Salesforce.com for the past five years, gets serious about software-as-a-service. SAP’s approach is likely to mirror Microsoft’s Software Plus Services mantra in form and substance. But after several years of miscues, SAP can no longer afford to get SaaS wrong at a time when cloud computing is becoming a standard platform for delivering applications.
#8 – Acer versus DellDell was once king of the low-price PC, but in recent years Acer has been stealing a march on Dell’s traditional PC business. Acer will step up the pressure on Dell, which in the enterprise space seems distracted by its server and services ambitions, to remember what it is that got them a seat at the corporate table in the first place. This, of course, assumes that Dell has finally fixed its support issues once and for all, and that it can effectively compete using essentially the same business model as everybody else in the PC sector.
#7 – Hewlett-Packard versus IBMHP is trying to morph itself into almost a mirror image of IBM, especially when it comes to IT services and business process outsourcing. HP will try to maximize its acquisition of EDS to deliver those services more efficiently than IBM by leveraging cloud computing. But IBM knows that score here as well, so the question is how low either behemoth will be willing to go in terms of pricing to win the long-term business, especially when you consider every other global provider of IT services that wants the exact same business.
#6 – Citrix versus VMwareNot since the early days of DOS have we seen so much competition for the desktop. Customers are slowly warming up to the idea of desktop virtualization, which Citrix sees as its natural birthright. But VMware is getting a lot of people to at least look at its virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) approach simply because of the prevalence of VMware virtual machines on servers. The question is how much help Citrix is going to be able to count on from Microsoft in terms of helping to turn back the VMware tide.
#5 – HTC versus AppleIn many ways, Google is just a proxy for HTC’s desire to unseat Apple and every other smartphone manufacturer out there. Flavors of HTC smartphones are starting to flood the market, and while the Google Nexus One may turn out to be more hype than transformative catalyst, the reality is that the uniqueness of the Apple iPhone is rapidly disappearing along with its ability to command a pricing premium.
#4 – Microsoft versus VMwareWhat kills Microsoft most is that it knows that VMware's playbook is almost an exact copy of the one that Microsoft used to unseat UNIX, yet it doesn’t seem to be able to do anything to thwart VMware’s momentum. Microsoft is trying to contain the spread of VMware virtual machines by giving away its own virtual machines. But VMware is now building a host of system services on top of VMware that Microsoft prefers to deploy in the server operating system, even though customers are signaling that they very much appreciate the VMware approach as a foundation for building out private cloud computing services that will define the next generation of enterprise computing.
#3 – Cisco versus Hewlett-PackardThis is going to be a war for survival, because HP can’t really afford to lose any of its existing ground while it struggles with IBM. In many ways, it’s almost as if Cisco, with its push into servers and services, and IBM, in an effort to blunt a threat to its services business, are trying to partition HP. The end result: Look for an extremely aggressive HP response that will be driven by the pressing need to do unto others before they do unto HP.
#2 – IBM versus OracleThey say business isn’t personal. But IBM is still smarting from Oracle’s decision to acquire Sun right out of IBM’s hands. The end result is that now IBM is very focused on aligning the entire software vendor community against Oracle as part of an effort to contain an Oracle business plan that very much looks and feels like IBM’s business plan. Already, IBM has found a receptive audience at SAP and the rest of the application community that views Oracle as a direct threat. So look for IBM to strike hard at Oracle as part of an attempt to eliminate a threat before Oracle can consolidate its application and Sun acquisitions into an integrated force.
#1 - Google versus MicrosoftWith pushes into applications, operating systems, smartphones and browsers, Google is trying to cut off the revenue streams that Microsoft lives and dies by. Without that revenue, there is not only no ability to expand into other industry segments, but Microsoft will find itself falling prey to nimbler companies such as VMware and a host of others that are not nearly as afraid of the folks in Redmond as they once were. The question is what Microsoft can really do about it, but to date, everything out of Microsoft has been more reactionary. Nothing short of the Microsoft legacy is at stake in 2010, so look for Steve Ballmer and team to get a lot more proactive in 2010.
Of course, most customers would prefer that their vendors follow the advice of Rodney King when it comes to just getting along. But in the same breath, senior IT leaders will tell vendors that they want to lower their costs by reducing the number of vendors they have to manage. That’s always going to be a recipe of industry consolidation that pushes industry executives to consider doing things they might not normally do. And given the fact that the economy is not going to rebound in a hurry, it’s almost guaranteed that by this time next year a few more industry giants will be on the brink of teetering.
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