Usually the rival was bigger (IBM) or older (Novell's Ray Noorda). The point is this concentration worked wonderfully. Microsoft became number one by winning a succession of heavyweight bouts, with the media as its audience.
While I was in Europe our German editor hinted to me that such concentration may be coming to Redmond again. This time it's VMWare that's in its sights.
There are sound reasons for this.
Microsoft is now an enterprise company, and that's where VMWare is strong. The battle is over the cloud and enterprises dig the cloud. VMWare has been expanding from hypervisors into a full cloud stack, and stacks are where Microsoft is at. Clouds are what its enterprise customers are talking about, and Microsoft needs to be in that discussion.
The pending break-up of Novell would pull all this together. The idea is that VMWare would pick up the SUSE Linux piece, mainly for its appliance expertise. Both companies have a sizable German presence, and big European sales. Beer and pretzels for everybody!
All of which may explain the announcement from Cloud.com that it would help avoid "VMWare lock-in" through an abstraction layer allowing Microsoft's Hyper-V to be used with the OpenStack cloud platform.
I think the rhetoric is more important than the reality here. Providing options in OpenStack for a variety of technologies is good for OpenStack. A cloud that doesn't demand you change your hypervisor to play in it is a better cloud.
It's the idea that all this is about freedom that gets me. If VMWare does become a complete alternative to Microsoft in the enterprise, through the cloud, then Microsoft does indeed have a battle on its hands.
And they seem up for the fight.