Part 20. A Smooth 5-Speed
When Microsoft decides to go after a market, they throw their entire weight into
the effort. Look at their assault on the Internet, for example; since 1996 they
have gone from nowhere to nearly 50% of the browser market. Meanwhile, the mediocre
quality of their other products has gotten worse as the resources have been channeled
toward the goal of bankrupting Netscape and removing choice from the browser market.
On the other hand, IBM does not have such an "all or nothing" mentality.
When a product fails to take the lion's share of the market, it may be discarded
(such as was done with the Micro Channel PC architecture). Or, it may be placed
on a "back burner" for continued development. It may even be given a lower
priority but continued regular updates. The public may not hear much about the product
-- such as OS/2 -- that is given such a lower priority. But the work and the progress
In this way, IBM has a entire set of "speeds" at which its various product
categories are developed. It operates like a smooth 5-speed transmission, able to
adjust to various market conditions and tune each product line to the appropriate
level of activity. Running full-speed-ahead in fifth gear are Java and Internet
commerce initiatives, as well as corporate middleware and services. In fourth gear
are less-important but still vital activities such as PC hardware, AS/400, and mainframe
sales. Third gear are key technologies like OS/2 and network management tools that
are needed to leverage important niche markets. In second gear are various other
projects that include legacy systems and research. In first gear are the products
slated for end-of-life.
The Microsoft policy of all-or-nothing means that driving their information highway
gets very rough at times -- change either happens too fast or not at all. As the
installed base of Microsoft products grows, this mode of operation will become more
frustrating and damaging to their business customers. IBM has learned not to put
all its eggs in one basket, and not to kill off products just because they don't
rule the marketplace. A smooth 5-speed will be a better vehicle for traveling the
information highway than a noisy lawnmower.
Most recent revision: April 25, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.