They say that breaking up is hard to do, but even some of the longest-running mutual-admiration societies are dissolving as shifts in power force IT vendors to reassess their bedfellows and frequently find them lacking.
Dell and Intel have been hugger-mugger for a long time but Dell’s announcement that it will use AMD chips in some servers will lead to tears before bedtime at Intel’s Santa Clara HQ.
A fortnight ago, I referred to Veitch’s Law stating that predictions come true a little while after journalists stop making them. Michael Dell could have looked forward to several extra days on the planet if he had pre-recorded his usual non-committal response on the inevitable AMD question over the past 20 years. The Dell-AMD deal is surely the longest-running rumour to be confirmed since Freddie Mercury told the world about his sexual orientation.
It should be noted that Dell’s embrace of AMD – an arrangement limited for now to four-CPU servers – is as tentative as that of the reluctant boy asked to kiss his mustachioed grandmother. It might be highly significant but then again it might just be an instrument to prod Intel into jealous rage. In the back of its mind, Dell might also have concerns over how the current investigation into Intel’s business practices could change matters in the future.
What is clear is that Dell needed some kind of change after its normal price-cutting pill failed to restore vigour to its flaccid stock price. Changing the perception of Dell as a company so conservative it sticks to the biggest component maker regardless of performance might help.
Less well known outside the industry, Symantec and Microsoft have also enjoyed a Darby-and-Joan relationship for decades.
Symantec founder Gordon Eubanks always said his firm had two strengths: the Norton brand and an in-depth knowledge of Microsoft operating systems. At the US Department of Justice trial, Eubanks testified in Microsoft’s favour while old rivals took pot-shots.
The big change that has come over Symantec now compared with those days is that Microsoft is heading for the former’s security stronghold. So far, Symantec has played this down but it must have had in its mind memories of firms such as Netscape in browsers, Stac Electronics in disk compression and a long list including Lotus, Borland and WordPerfect in productivity applications that wilted under Microsoft’s challenge.
Microsoft was playing away from home right under its old flame’s nose. The lawsuit slapped on Microsoft cited intellectual property but it might as well have been divorce papers.
Sun and Oracle, IBM and Linux, Fujitsu and Siemens – the IT industry is characterised by relationships that seem made in heaven but can turn dysfunctional in scenes reminiscent of Desperate Housewives. It would be no surprise were IBM to set up in domestic bliss with SAP, for example – and no shock to later find the pair incompatible.
Like many marriages, these partnerships are born of convenience and when one partner outgrows the other, or sudden changes in behaviour act as tell-tale signs of disillusion, a Dear John or Dear Jane letter cannot be far away.