Happy 100th, IBM!
By James Grahame
We get so caught up in the daily news about Apple, Google and Facebook that we tend to forget respectable old Big Blue. IBM was founded on June 16, 1911 as the Computing Tabulating Recording Co., changing their name to International Business Machines in 1924. The company now employs over 430,000 people and has annual revenue approaching $100 billion. That's three times Google's turnover and $35 billion more than consumer juggernaut Apple.
The company originally sold a diverse array of factory punch clocks and machines that read punch cards. In 1937, the US government adopted IBM equipment to track employment records for Social Security purposes, and the company went on to energetically market electronic data processing machines to major corporations and governments.
The introduction of the IBM Personal Computer gave the computing world a standard hardware platform. Unfortunately, the company wasn't able to sustain their leading position in the consumer marketplace -- Microsoft quickly came to dominate PC software, while an army of agile manufacturers created aggressively priced PC clones that chipped away at IBM's market share.
The company backed out of the printer market with the sale of Lexmark in 1991 and offloaded their personal computer division to Chinese powerhouse Lenovo in 2005. It seemed that IBM was seeking to distance itself from the unpredictable cycle of boom and bust that has been the hallmark of the personal computer industry for decades -- today's hot product is often tomorrows amusing antique, and billions can be spent on R&D with unpredictable results.
These days, IBM is positioned as the world's largest technology services provider. The company prefers to work behind the scenes to keep the wheels of industry and government turning. I wonder that the next century will bring?