If, as Greenbaum persuasively argues, Ballmer is indeed taking Microsoft into the stack wars, then it's going to need some allies—and I think it's #1 wingman is going to be Hewlett-Packard. It was exactly one year ago that Microsoft and HP, with significant fanfare, agreed to collaborate to the tune of $250 million in the joint development of enterprise technologies that the companies said would span from infrastructure to applications.
On top of that, a few months ago, HP contested an assertion I'd made that HP was falling precipitously behind in the red-hot market for optimized systems. HP countered that it's very close to releasing a wide range of these highly engineered hardware-software products in concert with a range of software partners, principal among them Microsoft.
I wouldn't be surprised to see a formal announcement of those big plans from HP and Microsoft very very soon—this month, perhaps?—and such news, combined with last year's $250-million pledge, would surely indicate that Microsoft intends to continue collaborating closely with HP in deep-seated enterprise strategies.
It would match HP's purposes as well, given that its long-time strategic alliance with Oracle has for all practical purposes completely unraveled and left the door open for other big-time software partners such as Microsoft and also SAP to step in and fill the void left by Oracle (for the full story on that, see Global CIO: Silicon Valley Crackup: Oracle & HP Killing 25-Year Alliance?).
The HP-SAP partnership is already broad and deep and both companies would like to enhance it—but that aim could quickly run up against the law of diminishing returns, as I wrote about recently in Global CIO: Are HP And SAP Perfect Match Or Train Wreck?.
If all of these scenarios outlined above play out, here's the impact Greenbaum expects it will have on Microsoft: "The stack components don't go away—they become an essential part of the sale—but they have to take second fiddle to a higher-value offering. That offering in Microsoft-land will not come from STB, but from—and here's where I go out on a limb—a realigned Microsoft that is selling a much broader strategic vision of what the enterprise wants and needs: a vision much more like Oracle and IBM than ever before."
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