Microsoft? or IBM? or None of the Above?
Microsoft's Steve Ballmer poked IBM in the eye this week with the following quote:
"Their pitch is to let IBM help your company with its innovation. Ours is to empower your people to innovate. The two approaches are striking in their contrast"
Steve Hamm wrote a nice article about the spat for Business Week Online. In the article, he detailed IBM's retort, provided by Ken Bisconti:
"Windows and Office attempt to prolong Microsoft's pre-Internet, proprietary, one-size-fits-all computing model. We embrace open-technology standards, which give customers the ability to mix and match the technology they use."
I do not believe that anyone is going to be better empowered to create software innovations because of the new features Microsoft is planning for Windows or Office. I also do not believe that IBM's embrace of open source and open standards is going to be at the center of the next wave of innovative technology businesses. But, in a sense, some combination of their two statements probably leads us to the right conclusion about where the software market is going.
Open source, not Windows or Office, empowers people to deliver software innovations to market more quickly. Survey the market today and take note of the number of software solutions that are being delivered to the market as Linux appliance solutions or as on-demand applications via the Internet. How many of these applications do you suppose are running Windows as their foundation or utilize Office as a key component? My educated guess would be "a negligible minority." How many of these new applications are being conceived, developed, and delivered by IBM technicians? My educated guess, again, would be "a negligible minority."
The freedom of Linux and open source technology empowers talented and motivated developers to get a high performing, integrated solution to market quickly with minimum overhead. Technical talent, a good idea, and a strong work ethic are the table stakes for the next generation of software innovations that will change the world. The Internet provides the distribution channel, and the last piece of the puzzle is the sales and marketing platform. The winning technology businesses will be those that match open source infrastructure with talented developers and a savvy marketing and sales approach. Witness Google, Yahoo, Apple, Red Hat, and salesforce.com. Who will be next?