Understanding IBM

Part 10. Sour Grapes

There's an old fable about a fox who saw a nice bunch of tasty grapes hanging from a vine on a tree. He tried several times to leap up and snatch them for his snack, but he was unable to. Finally resigning himself to defeat, he wandered off to greener pastures, saying to himself, "Oh well, those grapes were probably sour anyway!" Since that time, the term *sour grapes* has been used to describe an attitude of complaint and denial about something that doesn't turn out to have the expected happy ending.

This attitude takes the blame off ourselves and places it on the object of our desire. If we cannot afford a nice car, then we can rationalize "It probably isn't that nice after all." If we cannot afford the home we want, we can make the excuse "It probably is too much work to keep it clean anyway." In this way, we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are not really missing out on something good, so we won't feel so disappointed in our own failures.

This attitude has infected not just people out looking for grapes, however. In the business world, many companies that cannot succeed in a particular market -- for whatever reason -- may decide to leave the market completely and exclaim, "Oh well, it probably wasn't that lucrative a market anyway." IBM seems to have found this strategy appropriate for the consumer PC marketplace, as both hardware and software divisions have been losing market share in that market for years. There may be a ring of truth to it, of course -- in that the corporate sector is bound to have higher Return On Investment (ROI) and higher profit margins than the consumer sector -- but that is hardly comforting to those who want to use quality IBM products in their daily lives but find their options to do so gradually disappearing over time.

The response by the public has been, interestingly, quite the same -- a sour-grapes attitude! Instead of insisting on IBM products, many consumers just resign themselves to the mediocre and brain-dead alternatives spewed forth by the competition. "Oh well, the IBM product probably was not that good anyway." After settling for Packard-Bells with Windows95, these consumers ended up being quite sour themselves!

Thus the sourpusses on both sides of this unfortunate sales gap continue to obfuscate and deny the truth: that there is blame enough to go around. IBM could have set up a consultancy of consumers and small businesspersons at the "ground floor" to give them feedback directly from the "front lines" of the PC marketplace, but it did not see the need or the benefits of doing so. And consumers suffering from 30 years of a failing educational system could have dumped the self-anointed pandering class of media "experts" and dug deeply into the study of computer technology, but they did not recognize that their ignorance and gullibility made them prey to this class of would-be helpers.

Most recent revision: January 21, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
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