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VNU Net: Linux is big rival, says Microsoft

By Jo Ticehurst, VNU Net

Linux has joined heavyweights IBM and Sun Microsystems on
Microsoft’s list of major rivals.

According to Microsoft president and chief executive Steve
Ballmer, Sun, IBM, Oracle, America Online and “the phenomenon of
Linux” are currently the biggest threats to the software giant.
“But I’m not sure which [Linux] companies to name,” he added.

Speaking via a satellite link-up to IDC’s European IT Forum,
Ballmer struggled to be heard over a crossed line and despite
Microsoft’s previous investments in satellite technology, delegates
were unable to view Ballmer on screen. Instead they had to be
content with listening to his voice while viewing two huge black
and while photographs of the Microsoft executive.

Ballmer said Microsoft is also wary of a few startups such as
RealNetworks and Palm, but added that they were only a threat in a
niche area of the giant’s business. “None of these [startups] are
very broad competitors,” he said.

Ballmer described the industry as being in the third phase of
the internet. “Phase one was all about having a presence, to be on
the net. It was not about how much business you did or how much
profit you made. Phase two was all about getting eyeballs and
transaction collection. Phase three is all about effective business
operations and a focus on doing business better.” However, “some
companies haven’t done this yet,” he said.

He said Microsoft’s recently launched .net initiative is aimed
at helping companies achieve this third phase.

“We needed a platform to reflect the reality of the internet.
.net has to do with having a more flexible operations model and
needing to integrate your business with others. To implement this
vision we need to focus on internet standards like XML,” he
said.

“We believe in rich-client computing and also believe in a world
where software evolves to be a service. You won’t need to think
about installing software anymore, it will be done over the
internet,” he added.