IBM and Microsoft? Think again

"IBM wasn't interested in buying the Microsoft of that era."

By Salon Staff

Published June 9, 2000 7:10PM (EDT)

Microsoft owes everything to Justice

Contrary to the assumptions of ["Big Blue: IBM's Use and Abuse of Power" author] Richard DeLamarter, IBM wasn't interested in buying the Microsoft of that era because the organization that was developing IBM's microcomputers was purposely distanced from the IBM central organization. It was separated geographically and culturally and was given marching orders and a manager that virtually assured that they would not do things the IBM way. And they didn't.

The microcomputer division elected to speed development by going outside of IBM for virtually the entire assembly. They used an Intel processor, third-party disk drives and third-party software. IBM had no intention of buying Microsoft for the same reason it had no intent to buy Intel. It was never in the cards.

If DeLamarter wishes to display his depth of understanding of IBM then perhaps he can explain why IBM didn't sew up exclusive rights to the operating system that they purchased from Microsoft? Was IBM displaying its newfound spirit of fair play? Or was it that at IBM, microcomputers were viewed as toys that IBM's unreasonable customers were showing an interest in and why not have them buy IBM toys? They certainly weren't real computers, the kind IBM had grown up, and rich, on. So why spend vast amounts of capital building all-IBM computers? Bang together a bunch of purchased components, slap an IBM logo on the front, charge plenty for it and wait for this unseemly interest in toys to subside. Why concern yourself with long-term commitment for a phenomenon that will blow away when common sense reasserts itself?

The truth of the matter is that IBM is still a big, important company. It is still a big fish. But the pond that IBM used to inhabit and dominate has grown much bigger. Too big for IBM to dominate every part of it. The same thing is happening to Microsoft. Set-top boxes, handhelds, intelligent cellphones, Internet appliances and SANs and ASPs and God knows what else are making the computer market much bigger than when Microsoft managed its ascendancy. And just like IBM, Microsoft will remain a big, important company. A big fish. But once again the pond will have grown and, like IBM, Microsoft won't tower over the new, much larger computer market. The evidence of that change is already there. You just have to decide not to ignore it.

-- Allen Majorovic

Salon Staff

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