IBM says Google won’t win enterprise (but what about telecom?)

Interesting and provocative quote from IBM CEO Sam Palmisano (from a Barron’s interview via ReadWriteWeb.com, essentially claiming that Google — in particular Google cloud services — have no chance to win in the enterprise.

Here’s what he says:

“Is Google going to become the computing platform for the enterprise? Is a bank going to run itself on Google? Is an airline going to run itself on Google? Is IBM going to run its supply chain on Google? Is Bharti Wireless going to run themselves on Google? Is the banking system of China that we’ve built going to be on Google? Is the Russian Central Bank that we’re building going to be on Google? No.”

It’s hard to argue with any of Palmisano’s arguments. And IBM has already been through one or two (if not more) directly challenges to its business, including Microsoft/Windows and open source/Linux, the former which it beat back by moving up-market from desktops to data centers and services and the latter which it survived by working with it rather than against it.

So IBM has some credibility in surviving fierce business model challenges such as the one Google presents.

But what about the telecom industry? Cable has come at our industry directly, and VoIP providers like Vonage or Skype use IP-based technologies that incumbent telcos are now beginning to co-opt, much as IBM did with open source.

Google, it can be argued, represents a different kind of challenge because it is changing the battlefield. To that end, let’s play around a bit and tweak Palmisano’s questions for the telecom industry:

Does Google have the piece-parts to become a platform for general purpose communications? Are Web sites and blogs and tweets and Facebook posts, all catalogued for quick searching by Google, going to replace real-time voice calls as the communications vehicle of the future? Can Google develop and launch a wireless device operating system (and wireless device itself) that leverages the Internet and VoIP to undercut traditional and lucrative operator voice, text and data bundles? Can Google subsidize all of these efforts with an uprecedented monetization engine that has already upset industries like publishing, advertising and entertainment?

Can the telecom industry be as comfortable as IBM’s Palmisano in answering those questions with a declarative “no”?

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