Battle Ends, Collaboration Begins

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Long-fought battles rarely end successfully. So when operating system giant Microsoft and server-maker Sun Microsystems buried their 15-year-old hatchet (ending their anti-trust battles in April), it was a significant event for computer users everywhere.

To whom do we owe this victory? Computer customers.

In a world of big computer makers with generations of competing and incompatible systems, the time has come that the customer wields the real power. Customers no longer have patience for bitter rivalries that mean deeper dips into their pockets to make products work together. Economic pressures have been too steep. Suddenly, collaboration is the mantra.

Microsoft and Sun epitomized spats between marketing rivals, and now they epitomize the new collaboration of the era. The 10-year agreement starts with an information exchange that will allow Sun's midsize servers to exchange information to run more effectively with PCs and servers running Windows. Rivals need to share technology to thrive and grow. Competing vendors such as IBM have leap-frogged the pair, providing work-around services to blend the supposedly incompatible hardware and software systems. In today's world of best-of-breed solutions, collaboration makes the difference.

The Linux operating system - which can be downloaded for free or obtained on systems from other vendors - also has challenged Sun's more complex and expensive systems. Microsoft is also feeling the challenge of Linux' rise. (Speaking of Linux, be sure to check out "Is Linux Ready for Prime Time?" on page 78.)

This ceasing of old feuds is sparking some creativity among computer vendors seeking to reinvigorate the excitement for IT in the marketplace as budgets begin to ease, a bit at least. In the medical IT realm, we're seeing increased collaboration among vendors as well. Vendors big and small are addressing integration issues. We are finding data migration less burdensome than with earlier releases. Integrated RIS/PACS is driving a lot of this collaboration. Overall, vendors are listening to customers and listening to one another, too. And all are the better for it.