I suppose that if I were to compile a list of the top competition for MS, it would look something like this (in order of danger);
All those little niche things and web applets are really starting to take their toll. Google's desktop search is much better than the Microsoft Windows search and it beat their new search engine (coming real soon - on day - sigh) by a couple of years. Google's Gmail is heaps better that hotmail and beat the Windows Live Mail service (almost live now - sigh) by over a year.
- IBM (including Lotus)
One of the worst things that Microsoft has done lately has been to annoy IBM as it has caused them to embark on a series of quite damaging "Move to Lotus" and "Move to the Penguin" campaigns. IBM is the second largest software developer in the world (after Microsoft) and their Lotus Product suite beats anything Microsoft has, hands down. Anyone who has been to any IBM roadshows recently can see that they have a clear direction and that they're focussing on a single-suite approach. This is clearly better than the Microsoft alternatives which all seem to involve about 5 servers to do what is basically a single job. I think it's also worth mentioning DB2 here, as IBM have lately started putting a bit more push behind this product.
- Open Source Linux and OpenOffice Alternatives
Open source has long been a thorn in Microsoft's side, and some would say Linux is the worst of the problems. I would say otherwise. Linux is, unfortunately, still not as user-friendly or install-friendly as Windows and I don't think wholesale industry adoptation of the environment is going to happen for a while yet. OpenOffice, on the other hand is quite dangerous. I saw some really interesting statistics recently - a comparison of people committing to a Windows Vista upgrade compared to people committing to an office 2006/2007 upgrade.
Microsoft are in the top competition for themselves because they keep shooting themselves in the foot. Good examples include; Releasing relatively untested patches, needing patches in the first place, constantly revising published delivery dates (don't they use MS Project there?), making stupid remarks about competitors "I've never seen such as customer base waiting to be plucked" - Well, I for one am quite offended by the thought of being "plucked".
- Security Watchdogs and Semi-Official Bodies
I know that these people all mean well, but by constantly pointing out Microsoft's unpatched and vulnerable systems, the likes of the Gartner group and the various incident repsonse teams around the world are really not doing Microsoft any favours. How many times have I seen them say - "the workaround is to use an alternative browser, such as firefox, until Microsoft fixes the problem"
Sure, there's plenty more competition, but I didn't intend to write this article on MS Competition, I really wanted to draw attention to a new google feature - oh well, I'll save that one for next time.