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Forget Microsoft — What about IBM?

The recent press surrounding the EU’s insistence on continuing with their prosecution of Microsoft and its past business practices is a mildly interesting story. After reading some of the press, I am beginning to wonder if the world should be much more worried about IBM than Microsoft at the moment.

I think that it is very easy to focus on Microsoft’s dominant position in desktop software and operating systems and to focus on Microsoft as the big bad bully of enterprise software and computing. But let’s look at the porftolio of assets that IBM has assembled and what it means for their competitive position going forward:

Adoption of Linux – IBM has come out as a very vocal supporter of Linux, largely because it gives them a chance to win server market share without enriching Microsoft in the process. As Linux continues to grow as an enterprise server computing platform, IBM should be a real beneficiary.

IBM Global Services as a Technology Advisor – One of the great untold stories about the rise of IBM Global Services is the role that technical services consulting organizations can play in recommending new technologies and technology strategies. Aside from simply installing software, IGS has the ability to actually influence and direct customer architectures in a particular direction.

DB2 as a Database Powerhouse – DB2 is a real database program with real revenues and a strong customer base. For whatever reason, this fact is not as widely trumpeted as the market support for Oracle’s various products.

WebSphere as the “glue” for everything – Say what you will about the ongoing viability of the application server as a standalone business, it is clear that application servers are becoming increasingly important elements of IT infrastructure, especially as it pertains to systems federation and application development. I expect that app servers are going to continue to play an important role in information access going forward, be it via Web Services or more traditional approaches.

Storage and Utility Computing – IBM has its own products and agenda here, but they are certainly making admirable progress in this space.

So, what does all of this mean? I think that for the last 8 years at his been really easy to just focus on Microsoft as the big bad threat in enterprise computing. But if you stop and look at the collection of assets that IBM has assembled and what it means when you stitch them all together, IBM might be actually be the company that you really need to watch out for going forward. This is, of course, predicated on some belief that this “IT environment of the future”, featuring open source software, virtualized computing infrastructure, easier application integration, and greater reliability, is going to happen at some point.

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