The IBM-Microsoft software rivalry is the focus of a NYTimes story. The article follows IBM’s purchase of Rational Software last week. IBM is countering Microsoft’s .Net platform with its own combination of Linux and WebSphere (based on J2EE) for the coming world of web services.
This time, I.B.M. and Microsoft are the leading rivals in the unfolding era of networked computing. Within networked computing, one crucial market is the software that runs the larger data-serving computers that power corporate networks and the Internet.
A second vital market is for the layer of software known as a technology platform on which programmers write applications for networked computing. Such applications may include, for example, the programs that allow a regional grocery chain to monitor its stores’ inventories and automatically place orders with suppliers, or enable a corporate personnel department to keep employee benefits records current among its branch offices.
In a tactic that could also help circumvent Microsoft’s greatest strength, I.B.M. is seeking to move the platform layer of software to a level above the operating system, known as middleware. I.B.M.’s middleware offering is called WebSphere, and it is built with a version of the Internet programming language Java, J2EE. Java was created by Sun Microsystems, but I.B.M. researchers contributed a lot of technology to J2EE.
A Java-based platform like WebSphere can run on many different operating systems. Microsoft has its own technology platform for writing networked applications, called .Net, but it is more tailored for the company’s Windows operating systems.
The payoff from networked computing that Microsoft, I.B.M. and many other companies are pursuing is expected to come from Web services clever software that could bring a new level of automation and productivity to all kinds of online transactions among companies, suppliers and consumers. The software would use the Web to find and share data in electronic databases of companies or individuals, then automatically do things like making doctors’ appointments, restaurant reservations or procurement purchases.