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Open source alternatives invade Microsoft's competitor list

Microsoft's list of competitors is growing to include more open source software and Web browsers as the company fights to stay competitive with distributed computing, emerging PC alternatives, browser-based cloud options and always-on connectivity.

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The company's annual Form 10-K filing with the Security and Exchange commission reveals that Microsoft has widened its list of competitors, especially in its all important client and server divisions, and in its business division that includes Office.

Form 10-K is an annual report to the SEC that provides a summary of a company's fiscal year performance. Microsoft's 2009 fiscal year ended June 30, 2009.

While competitive pressures are often oversold in 10-K reports, Microsoft's reveals that the company sees many more serious competitors pointing their market-stealing arrows at the software giant.

Microsoft acknowledges the changing dynamics in the PC market and growing demand from new devices and platforms could undermine the company's dominant product positions.

Microsoft added to its competitor list Canonical, which develops Ubuntu Linux, as a commercial software competitor on the client side. Red Hat and Apple are also on that list, but specific mentions of IBM and Sun Microsystems have been dropped.

Microsoft also has added acknowledgment that longtime partners such as HP and Intel “have been actively working with alternative Linux-based operating systems” and adding competitive pressure.

In addition, Microsoft has expanded its list of competitors to Internet Explorer to include Apple, Google and Opera Software, confirming its stated realization that open source software is posing a threat on many fronts. In last year's report, only Mozilla was mentioned as a browser competitor.

Microsoft cites the economy and the growing awareness of netbooks as fuel for the growing popularity of Linux. Microsoft for the first time also calls out Google Android as a competitor in the netbook market.

The report on competitors aiming at Microsoft Office, which seems to be perpetually under attack and more so now with online services coming into focus, includes Adobe and Zoho specifically but no longer Sun. Microsoft has added 37Signals, Adobe, ShareOffice and SocialText, to its list of Web-based competitors to Office System products.

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