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Fighting With Everyone

Posted by pbrittan on December 10, 2003 at 1:51 PM PST

Microsoft's campaign to take over the world is bringing it into conflict with a few people.

I have already amply talked about Microsoft's battles with the Java camp (which are still just in the warm-up stages). That battle brings the software titan into conflict with IBM, Sun, BEA, Oracle, and host of others. Battles in the database arena redouble that conflict with IBM, Oracle,and others. But although the conflicts between these vendors are taking on new shape, they have certainly been raging for some time

Now, I just noticed a couple of articles that outline Microsoft's emerging conflict with new types of competitors, namely its tussle with SAP in the business applications space and its rivalry with Sony in the game console arena.

I watched an interview with Steve Ballmer, maybe a year or so ago, in which he announced that Microsoft was fighting a 7 front war. It does make sense. Microsoft needs to find new markets in order to maintain its phenomenal growth. It is also betting on the value of synergy between its products in different markets: if people's lives are made better by Microsoft technology being truly ubiquitous, then Microsoft locks in further advantage.

But then 7 fronts is a lot of fronts. Microsoft is very powerful, and undoubtedly feeling very powerful, these days. But even a superpower that seems to have the strength to take on all other contenders at once can run into difficulty in unexpected places. The payoff side of Microsoft's game is clear. The risk side is that by spreading itself too thin, or by turning against key allies, it becomes vulnerable in a core market.

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