Who is Microsoft's biggest competitor? Some say "itself," and with good reason, as Computerworld points out. Microsoft's biggest Windows competitor is pirated Windows.
But there's another company that is increasingly setting its sights on Microsoft, and it's doing so largely unnoticed. The company is networking giant Cisco, which through a mix of open-source software and collaboration technology is launching a credible campaign to deep-six Microsoft's desktop dominance.
In the past year Cisco has acquired PostPath, which enables it to move Exchange users to its Linux-based, drop-in Exchange clone (PDF), and Jabber, which adds presence and instant messaging. It already had WebEx and more, giving Cisco a well-rounded collaboration story that mimics Microsoft in key places, like Exchange/e-mail, but surpasses it in others.
We typically pit Red Hat or IBM against Microsoft, but is Cisco Microsoft's most determined competitor?
It's not just in applications that Cisco increasingly competes with Microsoft. Cisco has been overtly targeting Microsoft with Linux, and has become a top contributor to the Linux kernel. The only thing it lacks is a desktop operating system, but in the cloud-based future that may well be a strength, not a weakness.
I'm not sure how Cisco has managed to fly under the radar for so long, but I imagine Microsoft is keeping a close eye on Cisco. Unlike Intel and others that would like to shed their dependence on Microsoft, Cisco has little need to placate Microsoft, because the bulk of its revenue doesn't depend on Windows. That's a frightening proposition for Microsoft, and one worth watching.
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