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What Is Tech's Top Rivalry?

Posted by: Peter Burrows on August 10, 2009

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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?

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Reader Comments


August 10, 2009 10:59 PM

Clearly, Tech's biggest rivalry is with the Univ of Georgia...


August 11, 2009 12:42 AM

Microsoft versus Google


August 11, 2009 01:34 AM

Wow Ramblinwise1, did you really just say that? That's just sad.... Anyways, I'm hoping that the big tech rivalry will be iphone vs. palm pre.

Alex B. Gee

August 11, 2009 06:27 AM

For me it looks like various telecoms (AT&T etc) vs. Google. They may provide techincal solutions that we have not seen yet or can not even imagine today.

Facebook and Twitter are here for the moment, tomorrow there will be an ocean of copies and mee-toos.


August 11, 2009 08:04 AM

When is Business Week going to post real business news stories? This sounds like the dictation recorder was mistakenly left on while author was day-dreaming.


August 11, 2009 08:24 AM

cisco vs. hp/ibm


August 11, 2009 10:58 AM

It's Oracle vs SAP..

woknam66 = idiot

August 12, 2009 11:33 PM

Clearly woknam66 didn't get the joke. Oh well.


August 13, 2009 06:19 PM

It's a three-way: Microsoft (with Yahoo) vs. Apple vs. Google.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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