Fighting For Second


IBM and BEA both want underdog status in the Internet application server market


Normally, two technology franchises battling for the top spot in a coveted market would try to portray themselves as the top dog rather than the underdog.

Not BEA Systems or IBM, however. The companies have been competing head-to-head for the lead in the Internet application server market. Currently, BEA's WebLogic is the winner with more than one-third of the market share, while IBM's WebSphere is a close second. Most research puts IBM, which gained significant ground last year, within about 5 percentage points of BEA.

To that effect, IBM has promoted itself as the underdog with a relatively young product that's chipping away at the billion-dollar BEA franchise. Big Blue seems more comfortable playing the David-like start-up rather than the IT Goliath it really is.

But BEA also wants to be the little guy. Despite having the upper hand in market share, BEA is depicting Big Blue as the big bully that's using its multipronged business and global reach to muscle into WebLogic's hard-earned business. At a recent symposium, BEA chief Alfred Chuang said BEA is the competitive alternative to IBM and undisputed underdog, not the other way around. Neither company appears to want to be the favored powerhouse.

While the two companies volley customer wins back

and forth and battle for market share, the question is: "Who's the real underdog?"

Our guess is Macromedia and iPlanet probably have a pretty good idea.