These past two months, our antennae have been up, ready for the PCQuest Users' Choice survey, to analyze the data and to compile the State of the Mart guide in this issue.
Unfortunately, what we heard was more about lawsuits than about innovation. The SCO vs IBM lawsuit on Linux was on top of the charts wherever we turned. And that was not all. There was the lawsuit that Microsoft settled with Eolas technologies paying $521 million. Then there was the anti-trust investigation against Oracle on their bid for PeopleSoft. The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) had been hitting the headlines, suing all and sundry against piracy and file swapping. Then there are the many minor lawsuits that keep happening, that are too frequent to mention.
A couple of years back, I took the pain of reading through (well most of it, ignoring all the numbers) Intel's annual report. What held my interest were two pages of small print, somewhere in the middle. They listed all the lawsuits against Intel. They added up to a few hundred million only. And there was the comforting line that Intel had counter-sued all of them in turn!
The funny thing with all this is that the law does not move as fast as technology does. By the time the Netscape case between Microsoft and AOL was settled out of court, Netscape as a browser had become irrelevant and had ceased to exist as a company. By the time Eolas won its millions, it was reduced to a one-employee company (but with a hundred investors on board). By the time the SCO vs IBM case comes through a preliminary decision (not counting the appeals), it will be two or three years at least!
Many have asked me how the SCO vs IBM lawsuit would affect their plans. The courts have to have a final say in the matter. But, going by the evidence presented above, by the time the decision comes, technology or business imperatives would have already made the decision for you. And unless you are directly a party to the lawsuit, it is unlikely that you will end up paying in an A vs B lawsuit. It's also unlikely that your world will be majorly affected by it.
Let me end with a brief of the overview we got from the Users' Choice Awards survey. The details and the list of the winners you will find in the pages ahead. But let me summarize here some of the trends across product categories. Two companies are building strong leadership positions across many market segments—HP and Microsoft. Two companies seem to be doing the same on a smaller scale—Cisco and Samsung. IBM is building a strong number two position in even more diverse categories. I would not be surprised if IBM becomes a stronger number one in the years to come. Open-source products, not just Linux, but open-source products, have built up a strong fan following in many categories. They have reached the Users' Choice Club (top five) in many categories this year.
And, finally, the bad news. The Indian enterprise has a long way to go before it is fully IT-enabled. Even in something as rudimentary as an Internet security solution, only 56% of the enterprises polled already had one in place!