Happy (belated) Birthday IBM: 100 Years Old!

IBM i.e. International Business Machines had its 100th birthday yesterday, and I missed it. I did see the news flash by yesterday in my daily news watch, but I was just too busy to write about it. It wasn?t on my to-write list, not on my agenda and disappointingly not on my social media birthday calendars which I have come to rely on. Facebook, Skype, MSN, LinkedIn, iPhone, Android, Google ? none of you reminded me of his birthday, shame on you. In fact, probably the only reason it is being news’d about is because a publisher is pimping the book IBM 100 Years.

If IBM has become so off-center in our worlds today, why then do I feel compelled to write about it? And why do I still feel it is worth writing about a birthday a day late?

IBM PC "Personal Computer" - Computer that created the world we know todayIBM PC, 1981, – the term "PC" was also introduced by IBM – the first PC as we know today , running an Intel Processor and a Microsoft operating system. IBM PC, the Apple-killer, entered the market and within no-time thrashed the then dominating Apple Computer into a niche corner. Without IBM PC, we could still be using Apple Computer drones these days. Apple wouldn?t have been forced to go hip and stylish to fortify their education and design niche. Apple might be happily producing and dominating PC hardware. Without the failure of the Macintosh Computers against the IBM PC generations, and the inability of iMac to grab significant market share despite its back then trendsetting success, we would never have had the creation of the iPod->iPhone->iPad.

But what happened to IBM? It lost in the competitive world to produce hardware on economics (marketing, sales, cost-downs). And it lost its ability to innovate. If you read the timeline of IBM 100 Years, you will see that innovation was what kept IBM in the forefront in first 90 of those 100 years.

It?s always been easier to innovate, create and rally the team and supporters as an underdog. Remember when Nokia was an underdog, new and upcoming in the mobile phone handset world? An innovative company, producing phones that were so much more user-friendly and intuitive, entering a market dominated by Motorola and winning a crowd of supporters. That was innovation.

When the going gets big, it usually starts getting much harder. The risk-minimisers step in, innovating takes a backseat to analysing and leveraging on success factors, analyzing the analysis, attack goes into defense, and when the strikers become goalkeepers? that?s when the story gets dramatic.

These days, IBM Consulting is still a formidable force, in the business technology consulting market. Lost its innovation in technology, lost its ability to create and lead, so why not sit back and comment on other?s technology. That 100 years have given IBM many things that others cannot match – reputation, experience, network, clout and words of advice that people would value and listen to. Like good ?ol grandpa.

Will this also be the future of the movers and shakers of these days? Not everyone has the same dexterity of IBM to last through the test of time, think Atari, SEGA, Commodore, Sinclair. So will future deliver us a Nokia Consulting? Microsoft Consulting? Yahoo Consulting? Google Consulting? and even Apple Consulting? Only time will tell.

Happy Birthday, IBM – a day late,  and like any grandpa in the world, I know you wouldn?t mind the belated wishes. You?re not in my mindshare lately, but you are still in my heart.