Microsoft (MSFT) has blocked Google (GOOG), Salesforce.com (CRM) and VMware (VMW) employees from attending Worldwide Partner Conference 2014, according to the software giant's web site. Apparently, rivals like Amazon Web Services (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Red Hat (RHT) and Oracle (ORCL) aren't on the blocked list. So, can you now name Microsoft's top three rivals?

The answer seems clear. While most folks focus on WPC 2013 (taking place this week in Houston), Microsoft has launched the registration page for WPC 2014. The page states:

"The following companies and their employees and representatives are excluded from pre-purchasing passes for, attending and / or participating in WPC 2014 and affiliated events:"

  1. Google
  2. Salesforce.com
  3. VMware

Competitive Concerns?

Read between the lines and it's clear Microsoft now considers its top rivals to be:

  1. Google Apps and Google Android: Sure, Apple iOS set the early pace in tablet and smartphone computing. But Android's ability to run on multiple hardware offerings is the far bigger threat to Microsoft's Windows ecosystem. Plus Google Apps has an intense rivalry with Office 365 and traditional desktop applications.
  2. Salesforce and Force.com: Yes, Microsoft wants Dynamics CRM to counter Salesforce.com. But here again the bigger threat is Force.com's application ecosystem. If you've got a bit community of ISVs, chances are Microsoft wants to bury you.
  3. VMware V-Sphere and vCloud Hybrid Services: Microsoft has aggressively positioned Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V against vSphere. Plus, Microsoft wants to minimize any potential success for the newly launched vCloud Hybrid Service -- a potential threat to the Windows Azure platform.

Welcome to Attend (Sort of)?

On the flip side, it seems clear that Microsoft must keep the WPC doors open for some other rivals that sometimes partner with the software giant. So far, employees from the following companies don't appear barred from WPC14:

  1. Apple: Despite that famed 1997 agreement with Microsoft, The VAR Guy isn't sure why Apple isn't blocked from WPC14.
  2. Amazon Web Services: The world's largest public cloud is a big provider of Windows Server and SQL Server on-demand. Ironically, that makes Amazon one of Microsoft's top channel partners.
  3. Oracle: Microsoft recently signed an Azure cloud and Hyper-V partnership with the database rival.
  4. Red Hat: The company has partnered with Microsoft since at least 2009, despite fierce competition on the cloud, server operating system and virtualization fronts.

Reality Check

Is it unusual for technology companies to block rivals from their conferences? Absolutely not. But in this case, The VAR Guy was suprised to see Google, VMware and Salesforce.com so directly noted in Microsoft's WPC14 registration policies.