Where Ms Greene differs from the old school of high-tech bosses is how she sees the interplay between competition and co-operation. “I grew up playing Monopoly and Risk,” she says. “You have to collaborate to win these games—and compete when it is time to compete. But if you compete and break somebody’s trust you are going to lose the next time.” Maintaining trust means always being clear about what you are doing, she says, particularly since many of her firm’s partners are also rivals. What is more, Ms Greene argues, “With the internet, you can compete more effectively by being open.” When Microsoft tried to restrict how VMware’s customers could use its software with Windows, for instance, customers complained publicly and helped VMware prepare a white paper about Microsoft’s licensing practices that was posted online—after which the software giant relented.
Sadly, being open and playing nice has often been a recipe for losing against Microsoft. Even within VMware, some people observe that the co-operative approach often boils down to waffling. Others worry that VMware has not yet decided what game it is playing. Ms Greene’s plans for VMware do not sound terribly ambitious. In a nutshell, the company wants to turn virtual machines into “containers” for software and data. Firms can assign quality-of-service and security requirements to these software containers, and have them run wherever they want, be it on their premises or out in a computing “cloud”.
One thing is for sure: It is time to do one or the other