Understanding IBM

Part 18. Biodiversity

In nature, there is an important survival principle called "biodiversity." This is the idea that because of significant genetic variations between the various species, there is practically a zero probability that entire communities of living creatures can be wiped out by a single catastrophe, such as a fast-spreading disease. With sufficient diversity, there will always be a high percentage of any population that is immune to any particular disease. There will always be a high percentage of any population that is adaptable to a climatic change. There will always be plenty of critters that are impervious to any particular dangerous mutation or genetic flaw.

This principle of strength through diversity is also true in human culture. The fact that there were many countries on the earth during the 1930's, instead of just one, meant that an Adolph Hitler could not rise to power and leave no alternatives or outside corrective forces. The fact that not everyone converted to the Jim Jones cult means -- well, it means that most people are still alive! The idea that a single man-made culture would be ideal for everyone is as defective as the idea that everyone should eat the same food (meaning sooner or later one case of botulism would kill us all), or that we should all dress the same (imagine how embarrassing it would be if an insect destroyed the clothing crop!).

In a hazardous world, a policy of "one size fits all" is suicide. In the business world, the idea that one company can produce everything for everyone is also suicide. The idea of "Windows everywhere" implies that a single computer virus could take down an entire society.

Fortunately, IBM has wisely learned this lesson and thus avoids trying to squeeze everyone into a single operating system mold. IBM has become very adept at matching the needs of each particular kind of business to the capabilities of each kind of computer system. Mainframes are not being forced onto the desktop, and PCs are not foolishly used to run bank transaction centers. WindowsNT is used for its niche, OS/2 for its own niche, and OS/390 or AIX for other places. No one virus can destroy all of them; no one application error can crash all of the systems.

Microsoft has failed to learn this lesson, and is doomed to suffer massive outages among its customers. The beauty of Pure Java<tm> is that it allows the essential biodiversity of the multiple-OS underpinnings, while maintaining consistency of development across multiple platforms as well. With the Pure Java approach, both biodiversity and global compatibility are achieved. Under a totalitarian Microsoft regime, total collapse would be only a matter of time.

Most recent revision: March 7, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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