IBM has announced it does not want to compete on core technologies and will adopt a policy of open standards and cooperation with the rest of the IT industry.
Big Blue hopes to win the battle for dominance of the software market on implementation of these standards.
Mark Cathcart, corporate technology strategist at IBM, said the company is committed to keeping open base technologies such as operating systems, application programming interfaces (APIs), Java and simple object access protocol (SOAP).
"The proprietary era is past," he said. "The internet has heralded a new era, an open era which is based on integration. We won't compete on standards - there are so many other ways to make money."
He also criticised both Microsoft and Sun for failing to understand the concepts of open standards and open source.
Analyst reaction to IBM's plans has been mixed. Mike Thompson, director of research at the Butler Group, said the focus on open standards indicates IBM's power is waning, as it can no longer expect customers to take on board its proprietary technologies.
While he lauded the development of standards, he condemned the strategy as unrealistic: "To make a true open standard everyone has to be involved - competitors like Microsoft, Oracle and Sun. In a competitive market this is just a pipe dream."
However, Clive Longbottom, service director at analyst house quocirca, said IBM's focus is intelligent, given its long-term positioning.
"IBM global services now leads IBM, and half their business is from implementing kit from rival vendors," he said. "In such a scenario, interoperability and ease of integration are the most important things now for IBM, and their move towards industry standards makes perfect sense."
His view was backed up by Rob Hailstone, director of software infrastructure at research house IDC, who said the industry desperately wants vendors to move away from proprietary systems that lock firms into technologies.
He added: "IBM has seen the writing on the wall, and is moving very early. This is the way the industry is moving."
The outline of IBM's software vision comes at a difficult time. Mediocre results this week sent its share price down, and CEO Louis Gerstner publicly admitted to problems recruiting enough high-quality staff.