Asymmetrical warfare and IT

Asymmetrical warfare in IT has many facets, many dimensions. On one plane it is a fight of a startup against established monopoly (duck-duck-go vs google, opensource vs proprietary, etc), on the other – fighting IT department dogmas.

Given the state of virtual monopoly in multiple areas of IT: Google, Microsoft, Apple it is very difficult for newcomers to fight their way into the field. One example of asymetrical fight is Google&Apple vs Microsoft. Google stood no chance of dethroning Microsoft on desktop, however instead of all-out battle they made that battle irrelevant by shifting the fight where Microsoft had no power nor influence. They have established duopoly in mobile area and made mobile the focal point for consumers. That in term threw Microsft off-balance and forced them into symmetrical fight they just can’t win. Worse yet – both Google and Apple leverage their dominance to fight asymmetrically on the desktop field – Google encourages you to use their browser which already turned into OS while Apple is forcing people out of Microsoft ecosystem altogether. In both cases OpenSource technologies played major role. Arguably Apple would’t have OS X if it wasn’t for FreeBSD, Cups, Apache and other OpenSource projects. Google owes everything to Linux – from their server farm to mobile devices – it is all Linux in one form or another.

OpenSource itselft is an asymmetrical warfare in action: competing with proprietary software using patents, pay-for-license is impossible. Where asymmetric kicks into play is ability to take losses where opponent can’t – price and manpower. Proprietary model relies in patents and licenses to keepmitself afloat whereas OpenSource by it’s nature can afford giving things away for free and can have 0-cost labor. Again the fight has shifted into te domain of “impossible” for the proprietary companies. And we can see results – operating systems are practically given away for free now in a race to the bottom. So profits need to be extracted in new ways. However Proprietary platforms are at disadvantage as they can’t reduce their cost to produce.

Industry’s internal struggle reaches IT departments as well – dominant and well established IT strategies rely on monopolies and in fact feed off them. So to change the thinking, to innovate one must go back to Asymetrical warfare and rely on industry’s own lessons in Asymmetrical warfare.

http://www.comw.org/rma/fulltext/asymmetric.html