Well, Bob and Oracle and IBM. Cringely is at it again, and he provoked me into a reply to his drivel. It was interesting enough, to me at least, to warrant repetition here. You're welcome. (I've cleaned up a couple of typos here; rather early for my eyes to focus.)
IBM's competitive advantage over HP and Sun was IBM had a services business.
Well, no, not exactly. As I have predicted since Oracle bought Sun (and Bob decided not to include in his 2011 list), the advantage IBM has are all those z/Series (or whatever it's called today) Fortune X00 clients. Lose the z/Series box, and services disappear.
Larry has lusted for those clients for a long time. There's a reason Relational Software (not even its first name) had the first "commercial" RDBMS, stealing a march on Armonk. Armonk hated Codd, since he stuck a fork in IMS shortly after its birth. Larry wanted an alternative to the mainframe app world. He had only software, but did OK.
But the only way to get all those big, juicy Fortune X00 z/Series clients away from IBM is to have a full stack. He has to find a way to convert 20, and 30, and 40 year old COBOL code to something modern. With the Sun hardware and Oracle he now has a shot at it. It won't happen tomorrow; I'm wagering a prediction that there'll be concrete progress this year.
As to overplaying his hand with the *nix client base? It wouldn't be the first time he's done that, too. I don't see one strategy precluding the other tactic.