Understanding the Great Tech War

Toy army soldiersIn 1939, the world plunged into the Second World War, lasting the better part of six years. All the major powers of the time were involved. Numerous fronts opened up, with large campaigns in Asia, Africa, Europe, and skirmishes even in the Americas. In the end, the victors set the policies that directed world affairs until the present time.

Today, a Great Tech War is breaking out in the world of technology. The leading powers of our modern technological age, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, are positioning to do battle across multiple fronts. The winners will decide the direction of technology for a generation.

Whereas the combatants of World War II split into two primary alliances, the Allies and the Axis, the combatants in the Great Tech War have thus far seen fit to mostly go it alone, battle royale style.

The Major Powers

The Great Tech War is going to be fought by four Major Powers:

  • Amazon — Over the past two decades, Amazon has grown from a small online bookseller to one of the largest retailers in the world, rivaling WalMart in terms of its scope and scale. As it has grown, the company has branched out into (not obviously) adjacent markets such as eBook readers and tablets (Kindle) and cloud computing (Amazon Web Services).
  • Apple — After being left for dead in the 1990s, Apple brought back Steve Jobs and then proceeded to run the table. The company went consumer, innovating with electronic song downloads (iPod and iTunes), then created the words most iconic smartphone (iPhone), and finally dominated the mobile computing market with iPad. Like a rock star, it dressed up its image and went with a one-word name: just “Apple” now, not “Apple Computer.”
  • Google — It’s not just a search engine with some advertising thrown in. The company is delivering a top-notch mobile strategy with Android partners and branching out into downloadable apps, videos, books, and magazines in the Google Play store. Google also has a high quality cloud computing service (Compute Engine and App Engine).
  • Microsoft — Over the last decade, as Windows and Office revenue have slowed, the company has looked to expand into other areas. The old joke with Microsoft is that you should ignore its products until version 3, at which point it might deliver something good. The company’s first efforts at mobile (Win CE) and cloud computing (Azure) both fizzled, but Microsoft is fighting back with renewed vigor, and the latest versions of its cloud and mobile products are looking good.

The Minor Powers

The Major Powers in World War II were surrounded by a bunch of minor powers. In the same way, there are other minor powers fighting in the Great Tech War as well. Look to these power to build alliances with the great powers to as they work to build their position on one front or another.

Note that some of these companies are huge, so calling them a “minor power” might seem odd at first. That’s a reflection of their position in this new war, not of their financial strength or former glories.

  • VMware — VMware is the new kid on the enterprise software block. When VMware grows up, it wants to be the Microsoft of the 21st Century. In order to do that, it wants to fight in the cloud computing campaign.
  • Cisco — Cisco won the networking war of the 1990s, but it’s struggled to find new markets beyond that. Cisco is a hardware company in an increasingly software-oriented world and it’s hungry for the “next big thing.”
  • IBM — IBM, is well, IBM. ‘Nuff said. Never count them out of any fight that involves technology. If they can teach elephants to dance, they’ll remain a factor in this war for a long time.
  • HP — HP, in spite of its problems, has been dancing around some of these markets for a while. It bought Palm to help bolster its position in mobile, then couldn’t figure out what to do with it. It has expanded into cloud and has an extensive software business.
  • Oracle — Ever since Larry Ellison’s famous rant about cloud computing back in 2009 at the Churchill Club, Oracle has been trying to figure it out. As Ellison said, there is still a lot of hardware and operating systems and databases that get sold to power clouds, but the question is whether Oracle wants to play in all the other stuff. Following the acquisition of Sun, the company has a lot of pieces with which to construct a story.
  • Facebook — Facebook is a bit of an odd duck here. It isn’t a hardware company. It doesn’t build clouds itself. It doesn’t make software for others. It’s really a single, huge, highly successful social application, delivered in SaaS format. Beyond merely connecting more than a billion people and allowing them to upload pictures of their children and cats in funny situations, however, the company sits on a strong strategic position with respect to cloud-based identity.

The Theaters of War

In World War II, fighting between the Axis and Allied powers erupted on numerous fronts, grouped into large “theaters,” from the deserts of North Africa to the jungles of Pacific islands.

The Great Tech War has thus far been fought in the following theaters:

  • Mobile — Recent analyst reports have from IDC and Gartner have reinforced the importance of mobile computing as a primary source of growth in IT markets. All of the Major Powers are playing in the mobile markets in some way, and often more than one.
  • Digital Content (Apps, Music, Video, Books, Magazines) — It would be easy to lump digital content in with mobile, but it’s really a separate theater in this conflict, even if it’s frequently delivered through mobile devices. If a mobile device is the razor, digital content is the razor blade.
  • Cloud Computing and Big Data — Where mobile devices represents the client-side or user-side theater of conflict, cloud computing and big-data are the equivalent on the server-side. All of the the Major Powers have strong cloud computing initiatives, many with big-data services riding on top.
  • Identity Management — As the computing landscape continues to shift to a cloud-centric model, with users working from a number of different devices throughout a typical day, identity management because an important part of delivering a consistent experience across those devices. You can see all the Major Powers positioning here, allowing you to sign into various we properties with standard credentials.


This article has given you an introduction to the players and the major fields of battle. We’ll continue to cover the Great Tech War in future articles here at Leverhawk. Stay tuned for more in depth analysis. Be sure to to engage with us on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Give us your thoughts in the comments section, below.


  1. Interesting metaphor that works well! I believe the biggest challenge for the conquerors is the Fog of War. Not knowing what they don’t know and being obscured by what they think they know has kept them from being relevant in the Enterprise space for far too long. If they only realized it’s a much shorter bridge than they think IMHO.

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