Anti-alliances seldom work. Like thieves whose only common tie is robbery, the compatriots seldom have much in common beyond the dirty deed itself. So I've always felt ambivalent about the anti-Microsoft alliance, particularly as it contains a company which has twice fumbled the operating system ball, first with MS Dos then with OS/2.
But what troubles me more is the two-faced glee with which the anti-MS alliance is pouncing on MS' new woes over Java. I would suggest that major players like IBM - still the world's biggest software vendor - and Novell muster a bit more dignity when the writs start flying all over America.
Corporate marketeers often use words that signify war to describe the IT market, just as Robin Bloor did in The Enterprise in Transition report.
Campaigns are waged, strategies are planned and attacks on the competition are staged. But isn't there a deep gulf opening up between companies like Sun, which, after all, licensed Java to MS for development? When does a business partner become a business enemy?
Perhaps we non-litigious Brits are fooled by the amount of litigation which goes on between so-called pals in corporate America.
There are three things happening, the most public of which is MS' admitting the company's growth is slowing down. There is no indication that any other major player is making inroads into MS' market share. Java is still boiling away in the background and looking more like a major contender.
The first is the irresistible rise of the centralised computer as outlined in the August 1996 Bloor report,The Enterprise by Other Means. The other is the use of the courts to undermine MS' credibility. But, as the Clinton saga shows, you can do anything and people will still vote for you as long as you deliver the beans.
Americans are pragmatic. Bostonians elected a major from his prison cell - twice. There was no contest - jobs were at stake. So Larry and Scott should look closer at their bedfellows.
How many of you remember the hatred in the IT industry that IBM used to engender for its sneaky marketing techniques and aggressive selling?
It's true that IBM is a past-master of many tricks MS has still to discover - and it has been in the courts more often.
It was only as I was reading the proofs of our recent Dealer Focus that I realised how far the NC has come. There are now powerful hardware alternatives to the PC and they are driving Java further than I thought it would go.
As PC sales taper, MS has always had its fingers in other people's dishes - Java may nibble away at Wintel's USP, but MS is well down the road with its partners to closing the gap between Unix and 64-bit computing.
So bad predictions or not, MS has more balls in the air than most rivals, and that license it took out for some of JavaSofts' technology is just another strand in a winning formulae. For Java not to slip into oblivion like the X-Platform, it will need more than partners in strife.
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