Once upon a time, rivalries really mattered in the tech industry—far more than they do now. Maybe the industry’s behavior has simply matured along with the underlying economics. Growth rates for most segments have slowed, leaving less reason for rivals to do their best trash-talking and evangelista-ing, as they did when the sky seemed to be the limit. (I’m thinking of Dell vs Compaq and IBM, or Microsoft versus IBM or Sun or Netscape).
Or maybe it’s that so many of today’s faster growing markets have yet to prove they can be profitable, such as social networking. Hard to pull out all the marketing stops when there’s nothing but red ink on that bottom line. Or maybe it’s an end-of-history kind of thing—that most of the big fights that really matter have already been decided. Microsoft seems to have survived the threat from Linux in servers, and all but killed off Unix. The Internet Protocol has whooped every other network. Amazon has vanquished eBay.
Personally, I think the most interesting fight now is between Apple and Google (Actually, it’s a three way fight that includes Microsoft—but both Google and Apple have focused on Microsoft for so long that there’s hardly any news in that). Why Apple and Google? Because they are the two companies that are best positioned to win the biggest fight of them all, to establish themselves as the center of billions of consumers’ digital lives—Apple because it’s already done it for 40 million-plus people, and Google because its vast reach and amazing search-powered profit machine give it that potential.
But that’s just me. Which do you think is the most important rivalry in tech today? Not just one that generate headlines, but that will have the greatest impact on the future of tech. Here’s some options:
Microsoft versus Google?
Microsoft versus Apple?
Microsoft versus Cisco?
Facebook versus Twitter?
Google versus Facebook?
AT&T versus Verizon?