Clouds renew IBM-Microsoft rivalry

Despite the increased speed of technology, planning a market assault is now a long term, scaled process with lots of moving parts.

Time to party like it's 1989.

Back then Bill Cosby's sweaters were must-see TV, Michael Keaton was Batman, Billy Joel didn't start the fire, and trade shows like Comdex were swinging to the conflict between IBM's OS/2 and Microsoft Windows.

(This picture by Jason Madara shows IBM's cloud computing center in San Jose. Forget about back to the 80s -- this pic looks like it's from back in the 60s of Stanley Kubrick and Hal.)

IBM retreated after losing that last battle, but now it's back, with a services and cloud strategy that has big customers like Panasonic dancing to its beat. How and why has the world changed so utterly? (And whatever happened to Michael Keaton?)

  1. The terms for hosting corporate applications like e-mail have changed. It's about security now.
  2. Thanks to acquisitions like ISS, IBM has been boosting its reputation in security, while Microsoft has been busy putting out fires.
  3. Ubiquitous broadband in corporations, and the rising cost of serving Windows clients, is pushing more enterprises into the clouds.
  4. IBM has been putting its money into clouds for years, and now feels it is ready to challenge.

It's true that neither Microsoft nor IBM can hold a candle to Google when it comes to basic cloud technology. But enterprises aren't looking for basic cloud technology.

They're looking for hosted applications, what's called Software as a Service (SaaS), and Google's clouds are not yet application-rich. They're more like the barn your parents will lend you to put on the show. Applications are the words music, and choreography.

What is your smart takeaway from all this? Despite the increased speed of technology, planning a market assault is now a long term, scaled process with lots of moving parts. IBM has been preparing this assault for over 15 years, practically since former CEO Lou Gerstner joined the company in 1993.

While Microsoft has been cleaning up in mass consumer markets, IBM has been quietly pushing its new vision for the enterprise.

Microsoft is not yet knocked out -- the Panasonic deal is just a single body shot -- but it now knows IBM is in the ring again.

You should know that, too.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com