In a bar fight, what are you prepared to do?

Competition in the tech industry is a fundamental. Without it, we would never have seen the innovations and incredibly cool stuff that have informed, transformed, and improved our daily lives. Think about search and how much we use it to find anything, anytime. Or email tools that allow us to be connected and exchange ideas. Or blogging which enables the value creation of ideas. Or, well, you get my point.
We want it, and we want that process to continue to raise the caliber of what is created, and the value it offers. But there is one rule that allows that level of innovation, and that is the rule of when there’s a winner, there’s a loser.
There are several companies out there facing their Netscape Moment. No, not the crazy every-one-who-matters-wants-to-work-here and were going to make a $1M for each day we show up to work insanity. But the day that MSFT announced they would enter the category, and Netscape never recovered. They lost their mojo, and along with it the market.
When we talk about competition in the pristinely clean halls of offices, we reduce it’s value and effect in high-tech. We think about it like there’s dollies and high tea will be served soon. But we’ve got to start thinking of competition, people as a bar-fight. There’s one winner, and one loser and you better get in the fight if you expect to win.
Why, might you ask am I writing this on a Friday afternoon. Frustration, that’s why. I see companies thinking that “there’ll be time” and it’s people who haven’t seen the truck slam up side the car to see the kind of destruction that will happen. They weren’t perhaps around and paying attention when Netscape and all the good people who worked there lost their mojo. Sometimes the thing an operational background gives you is perspective.
Vmware is facing a battle equivalent to the Microsoft-Netscape battle of today. They have virtually created (pun intended) the virtualization category yet they’ve done it in a way that no one has an allegiance to create more market momentum in that direction. They’ve also created the category without making sure they are the rightful beneficiary of the category growth. This, while notable and worthy in the category of innovation is like spending money to water the neighbors yard and not your own. It makes the neighborhood look good but doesn’t build value in your own real estate. To overcome this, VMware needs to change approach. They need to become a brand bulldog. Picking their turf carefully and then defending it with the tenacity of a junkyard dog guarding his bone. Forget about parity and go for distinction. Get clear on your brand position and make sure everyone in your company knows it and can articulate it. Make sure however you define your offer is truly unique and you can lay claim to it, you have a way to fight differently. Customers want you to articulate why they need to follow you. Go VMWare, Go. And get rid of the gloves. This is a street fight.
Which leaves me with a question for all of you — are you prepared to fight for your competitive ground? How so? Let me know…

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