In a report out of Reuters today, Microsoft's Bill Gates, in a pre-keynote chat with reporters, said IBM is the competitor that keeps him awake at night, not the hot companies of the moment, that being Google and Apple.
To quote Reuters: "Asked if Google represents the most formidable threat of the company's 30-year history, Gates replied with a curt 'No.' 'The biggest company in the computer industry by far is IBM. They have the four times the employees that I have, way more revenues than I have. IBM has always been our biggest competitor. The press just doesn't like to write about IBM,' said Gates."
IBM is posing a formidable challenge on two fronts: open standards, meaning Web services and SOA, and open source, mainly Linux. IBM is investing billions in both technology areas, and both areas are bearing fruit for Big Blue. The Java Platform (Java Enterprise Edition, etc.) that WebSphere is constructed around is just as popular within enterprises as .NET Framework.
Then there are the products that IBM doesn't directly make money off, but helps increase the value proposition of Big Blue's platforms and services. The open-source Eclipse IDE, which IBM orginally launched and supports, is giving Visual Studio a run for its money. IBM has also been pitching the adoption of OpenOffice on Linux on the client stack -- Microsoft's home turf.
As I observed in a previous post, IBM may be a bit over-zealous in pushing SOA, complicating its message to the market, but Microsoft has been too obtuse on its own SOA message.
(Pictured above: Microsoft's Bill Gates and Steve Mills, VP of IBM, at interoperability demonstration in 2003.)