back to article IBM software: big, blue and boring in the 2010s

IBM's vision for software ain't what it used to be. Biggie Blue's venerable software biz will doubtlessly roll right along into the new decade - make no mistake - but where's the drive and risk taking that made the company actually cool back 10 years ago? One can't help but feel IBM software is settling back into the legendary …


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Risk Taking? IBM?

Is the author talking about the same IBM I know?

Remember the old phrase "Noone ever got fired for buying big blue"?

The whole point about IBM was that they were boring and dependable.


IBM gives Microsoft hope for the future

In the 1970s, IBM had a monopoly in mainframe computers.

In the 1980s, IBM blew it, and gave the PC business to Microsoft

In the 1990s, Microsoft expanded its PC monopoly

In the 2010s, Microsoft blew it, and gave the mobile era to Android and iPhone.

So both IBM and Microsoft can join the club of computer companies that failed to judge the next era of computing, when the hardware downsized and the world changed.

However, to this day, IBM still retains its mainframe monopoly, and even has the Department of Justice on its tail regarding monopoly laws. Microsoft still retains its PC desktop monopoly, and IBM has shown Microsoft that it's possible to hold a monopoly for 40 years or more.

Anonymous Coward


"made the company actually cool back 10 years ago"

Is this another IBM that I don't know about?



Big Blue reverts to type?

Sure there's all the R&D stuff they're still doing (research or die) but apart from that I don't see that they have ever been anything but staid and businesslike underneath the Linux showboating.

After all, nobody gets sacked for buying IBM.. (unless they thought they were buying IBM and got Lenovo laptops instead)

IT Angle

Cool company

They were cool in 2000? Really? Playing chess? Putting Linux on OS390? (but ashamed of it so having to hide the fact)?

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@I/T Specialist

"In the 1980s, IBM blew it, and gave the PC business to Microsoft"

IBM didn't blow the PC industry. In fact, IBM created it.

What you don't know I/T Specialist is that IBM was not allowed to create the OS nor the processor for the PCs that was created by the DOJ.

So, IBM used Intel processors (80xx) and Quick and Dirt OS (QDOS) from Microsoft.



IBM has never been cool.


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I wasn't there

...but I gather the IBM PC started out as an executive toy stroke status symbol - pretty expensive for a toy. People who made compatible PCs were sued initially - Compaq is in the story here somewhere - but Microsoft's MS-DOS availability kept clone machines alive as a concept, eventually third-party machines were made that IBM couldn't sue over, and basically here we are. Also in the story is Lotus 123, the world's spreadsheet before Excel, a hugely useiful tool for managers, right there on a PC in your own office.

IBM's PS/2 was an attempt to use IBM know-how to make a new PC that was both proprietary again, and so much better than other machines that you didn't mind that - like Apple Mac. That didn't quite work. OS/2 is the operating system that those PCs were to use, but the world went with Microsoft Windows instead. Part of the problem was that OS/2 was aimed principally at the business market and Windows was fun. Windows even came with games, although by now in 2010 the boss has tools to stop this. But I bet a lot of managers chose Windows PCs just to have the Freecell card game.

As for Lotus 123, they were ready (or tried to be, I forget) with a version for OS/2, so that's when they went off the rails as well.


Some PC History

RCarnegie @ 12:31 is partly right. See Ken Polsson's excellent timeline of PC history for a pretty thorough telling of the tale.

If I recall correctly -- because i pretty much WAS there, in time and spirit if not in the flesh -- the PC was kludged together because IBM felt a need to be vaguely present in a market that it didn't expect to last out the decade. The rancid camel groin cheese that was the BIOS was excreted in an attempt to wed a bunch of off-the-shelf also-ran hardware; IBM had absolutely no commitment to the market.

I agree that the early PCs were toys, but that did not -- emphatically NOT -- lead to the explosion. The IBM PC was stunningly expensive. It would have died a swift and well-deserved death if not for the fact that large fleets of cheap clones could be bought for the clerical pool. Windows was still in version 2.0 (yes, I WAS there) when Commodore, Atari, and Apple were pounding out genuinely usable GUIs. By comparison, an ucking fugly DOS box that ran WordPerfect could be bought for the secretary at half the price -- provided that you omitted the graphics card, the extra RAM, the hi-res display, the mouse, the serial card, and a GUI. The Suits who filled their companies with computers never had to use the shite they were buying.

As for OS/2, I seem to recall that it actually WAS Windows NT, up to a point.

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Nope, OS/2 was never Windows NT.

Windows was a cheap answer to OS/2 (co-developed by MS and IBM) as a DOS front-end, and Windows NT was a new, more portable system MS developed that up to a point had a OS/2 compatibility subsytem (alongside a UNIX subsytem and the current Win32/Win64), but was later scraped.

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A watch with eight megabytes of Flash!

That's enough to store an entire MP3 track! And the B side as well! (Ask your parents. No. Your grandparents.)

We have larger ringtones today. And smaller SD cards.

I have programmed entire computers that had less memory than my video card.

Sometimes I think a Time Lord lives -too- long...

Big Brother


About the only thing I care to see from IBM is RPG V. I have a rough time holding back guffaw s everytime I'm forced to sit through a SAP or TerraData presentation, telling us AS/400 users all the 'advanced' features their products have.


IBM, MSFT, History

MSFT didn't develop NT, they bought it from DEC, which is why NT always ran best on an Alpha chip.

IBM developed the PC because Wang Computers were eating the office automation market. The Armonk Monster did a little market research and realized most of their Selectric customers didn't want to spend the money for a mini-computer, but said customers fantasized a need for office automation. Which is why, despite the fact that it didn't network, IBM sold the original PC as a straight-up Selectric replacement that would automate your office like a Wang. It was all a lie, but it sold. Of course, once you had one PC you had two, and once you had two you wanted Susie and Janie to be able to trade docs back and forth, and is why initially most Network Admins (when networking became available) were typists.


Eclipse is rubbish

Anyone who has spent any time developing with Intellij Idea then been forced to use eclipse will attest to how rubbish eclipse is.

Everything from IBM is rubbish and the only people that buy from them are managers you don't know what they are doing.

Unfortunately that 'only' is a large group of people.

The best thing about IBM is their sales team.

How they manage to spin selling crap with support as better than a good product that doesn't need support is an achievement!

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