Our Window/Joseph McKendrick: To the Victor, the Spoils

At the Windows 2000 launch, Bill Gates appeared with Carlos Santana, and even plucked a few strings of the rock legend's guitar. Why is it every time I look at that picture of the two of them together, strains of "You've Got to Change Your Evil Ways" run through my mind?

Okay, sorry, I couldn't resist. How about strains of "Smooth"?

Over the past decade, Microsoft's ability to stomp on the world's computing giant, IBM, has been nothing short of brilliant. And it continues to chase Big Blue upstream into the enterprise.

Of course, as we all know, that's not Microsoft's only major battle. Many in the industry have been cheering as Microsoft fights for its very life with the Justice Department. I'm sure some IBMers are secretly cheering as well. It's rumored that many IBMers are still smarting over the way Microsoft Windows won the operating system war. Sure, IBM is a stalwart member of Microsoft's Hardware Harem. And it's well documented that IBM has virtually abandoned OS/2 to support Windows on its Netfinity Servers and PCs.

While OS/2 Warp may not have the full love and care of IBM, the operating system has a loyal and dedicated following. OS/2 Warp Server has a lot of nice features, such as Journaled File System support, partitioning, and support for up to 64 SMP processors. This summer, OS/2 aficionados gather in Philadelphia at Warpfest 2000. By all accounts, last year's Warpfest '99 was a smashing success.

Yes, OS/2 could have been a contender.

Let's rewrite a little history, and suppose IBM put all of its huge marketing resources behind OS/2 to crush Microsoft, sideline Apple, and won the operating system war. In the early to mid 1990s, OS/2 cleaned Windows' clock to rule the desktop and departmental server market. Now, every new release of OS/2 Warp is surrounded by a swirl of PR hype, media frenzy, and solutions partners anxious to get their name associated with the launch. An image sure to warm any IBMer's broken heart.

Now, add these details to the picture. IBM also still has a lock on the very high-end of the enterprise, mainframe computing. Big Blue also dominates the middle of the enterprise with its AS/400, and is firmly planted in the Unix world with its AIX operating system. Not only the operating systems, but the hardware that they run on, locked together. All run by IBM's own PowerPC processors.

Microsoft, by contrast, only dominates one or two layers of the client stack, and has only begun to make inroads into the OS and application layers of the server stack. If IBM prevailed with OS/2, it would be controlling all layers of both client and server stacks, from hardware box to processor to OS to software. Throw in the middleware between machines as well.

Would the Justice Department have a problem with that? I would hope so. They would have been all over IBM like coffee over a keyboard. IBM should thank its lucky stars that OS/2 didn't take off. Big Blue already spent two decades dealing with the Justice Department over the conduct of its mainframe business. Another antitrust suit over desktop operating system domination would have broken the company into a million pieces, and thrown the IT world into chaos.

And we'd all have been in all-Blue shops, paying all-Blue prices, singing to Big Blue to change its evil ways.

Now THAT'S a monopoly.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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