This post is not very PC
December 3, 2004 12:21 PM   Subscribe

End of an era IBM may sell its PC division to Lenovo, a Chinese company, due to its decade-long dwindling importance in comparison to powerhouses HP and Dell - in a market they helped invent in the first place. Seems like a good enough reason to reminisce about the old bastard.
posted by fungible (21 comments total)
Their desktops have always been kinda weird and kind of proprietary (can anyone say PS/2? How about PS/1?) but I hope the buyer takes on the proud tradition of the ThinkPad notebooks.
posted by zsazsa at 12:50 PM on December 3, 2004

IBM never got price competitive and stuck mostly to business users -- which is no real way to make money in this market I suppose.
No way was IBM ever going to price compete along the likes Wal Mart's "Balanced" Offering or the way Dell devotes much of its energies to this business.

As far as quality product, good tech support, reliable warranty handling though I guess what would be left is HP, Apple, and Dell.
posted by narebuc at 12:57 PM on December 3, 2004

I have had several ThinkPads, and am using one right now. They all have been excellent machines, but perhaps a little pricey. I remember my first computer - no mere 4.77 MHz laggard, no it was a screamin' 8 MHz IBM clone, with two floppy drives.
posted by caddis at 1:04 PM on December 3, 2004

ditto zsazsa's comment on the Thinkpads. I'm on a T41 writing this, and have always loved the IBM line of laptops. It'll be a pity to see the quality drop off after this deal takes place (as it most assuredly will).

probably a shrewd biz move on IBM's part though-- desktops and notebooks are about as strong of a profit maker as gas is for gas station owners.
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:11 PM on December 3, 2004

The desktop, (assuming it's not a Mac), that you're reading this on probably exists because IBM was not proprietary with the original PC, and that was their error. (I remember the blue 'Technical Reference Manual' with my first PC, which, iirc, contained a listing for the BIOS). From the earliest time, there were floods of 3rd party bits, (Hercules & Tecmar anyone?). The PS/2 was a desparate attempt to regain some kind of hold, at least over the hardware, and lead to the IBM vs. Compaq EISA vs. Microchannel wars. Which, of course, we know the end of.
posted by punilux at 1:15 PM on December 3, 2004

Bummer. Thinkpads have always rocked, and I got out of a lot of tech support by recommending that friends and family buy IBM computers. They cost more in the short term, but IBM's tech support rocked - home users got the kind of support that other companies used to provide (they don't any more) only to business users.

I wonder if moving from concrete items to "services" and "consulting" is really a smart business move. Look at the wonderful time EDS has been having selling services and consulting lately. Not that I'm bitter.
posted by QIbHom at 1:20 PM on December 3, 2004

I learned my word processing chops on a PC Jr in the mid-1980's. Writing Assistant, 5 inch floppies, when one of my papers got to 10 pages I had to save it and start the second half of the paper in a new file. It got me through undergraduate school. I'll always have warm spot in my heart for the Jr.
posted by marxchivist at 1:22 PM on December 3, 2004

My dad got me one of the original PCs (he worked for IBM). Oh the hours whiling away at BASIC, visiting BBSs, looking at ASCII porn. I still have the original DOS floppy at home (I know it's worthless, but still.) Yet now I use a Mac.
posted by fungible at 2:54 PM on December 3, 2004

Ha. I 'graduated' from my commodore 64 to the Coleco Adam to an old mac (B&W) and back again to PC-land.

I have a freaking fetish for Thinkpads. I see a T41/42 in my future. Need? Want? I can't tell between them anymore. I just know if the quality of these babies tanks after this sale, I'm getting one that's well-proven.

I thought IBM's SFFs were pretty cool, too.

End of an era.
posted by Busithoth at 3:09 PM on December 3, 2004

So, does anyone remember pressing some key combination on an IBM PC Jr, and then starting up to find this little computer guy who you use to grab letters and put then in a square, upon completion of which you find the little guy falling through a psychadelic wonderland with crazy music? Because I do.
posted by MarkO at 3:21 PM on December 3, 2004

I got an employee discount for my lovely sleek black NetVista, and the support is awesome. But it would appear that IBM haven't really been TRYING with their PC department for about a decade. The prices have consistantly been absurd. I thought maybe it was a deliberate tax fraud thing.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 3:26 PM on December 3, 2004

It seems to be a smart move to me.

PC's are a stupid business to be in. Unless you concentrate every ounce of your company into it, and cut everything (employees, inventory, supply lines) to the bone, you won't see a cent out of it.

Dell doesn't inco-transfer from its suppliers until it actually needs the part. So it has barely any inventory to start with, and whatever inventory it has it doesn't even own until it pulls the part and puts it in the final product. Then they use their size to muscle extremely long terms out of their suppliers.

So they don't have to pay for that hard drive in your computer until about 6 months after they deliver it to you. This allows them to do really whacky things like sell the computer at a loss and make the profit on the float during the payment terms.

Now, Dell has made a good business out of this, but for IBM, I say screw it. Its too much work and they are so good at other, much more profitable stuff.

They're #1 in server sales, they have a great growing consultantancy business, and their semiconductor business, centered around the Power processor, really kicks ass.

However, I do shed a tear for the Thinkpad. The greatest laptop ever made (With the exception of the T2* line, which apparently was accidently designed by developmentally disabled children)
posted by PissOnYourParade at 3:43 PM on December 3, 2004

You can't make money in the cutthroat PC market doing any actual engineering. Too bad for IBM, but it's amazing that it lasted this long.
posted by tommasz at 3:44 PM on December 3, 2004

I'm a real diehard Mac type, but IBM's hardware has tempted me more than once. Well, all right, every time I've looked at it. I love the Thinkpads, and that toty little VCR-sized one they did for Japan, and the NetVistas, and that new little cube-shaped one they've got, and that clickity keyboard they made is still the world's best (shame it has no key that can stand in for apple) and I'll stop now, because it's all pointless... because of Windows. Oy.
posted by bonaldi at 3:52 PM on December 3, 2004

The best part about my ThinkPad? The keyboard. It's solid. I love the new PowerBooks but I can't stand their keyboards.
posted by grouse at 4:06 PM on December 3, 2004

My first computer was an XT. My family skipped the commodore, and went straight for the IBM.

Remember when other PC's were called IBM clones? How times have changed...
posted by joelf at 4:23 PM on December 3, 2004

MarkO, was that CryptoCube or whatever? I have that on a 5.25" somewhere.. used to love playing it on my Tandy.
posted by mrg at 5:18 PM on December 3, 2004

I wonder if moving from concrete items to "services" and "consulting" is really a smart business move.

They have already made that move and it seems to be working well for them. Half of IBM's 300,000 employees are now in the services business.
posted by stp123 at 6:16 PM on December 3, 2004

I work for IBM. I think the reason this happened was they were simply unable to leverage the web to improve their supply chain and sell. I am not so certain the consultancy thing will pan out. I don't see this as a shrewd move, more like acceptance of defeat.

For me, this is pretty bad news, and I need to think about how it might affect my job. I, for one, am beginning to see the writing on the wall concerning our new Chinese overlords.
posted by xammerboy at 6:25 PM on December 3, 2004

Ditto MC, I'm on a T41 right now and I couldn't be happier. Hated my Dell, and I pity my classmates who constantly curse at theirs. Sad to see the end of an era.
posted by radioamy at 7:34 PM on December 3, 2004

hmm. and here i'd considered looking at the thinkpads for my next laptop... now i'll have to wait and see. if the quality does suffer, that would pretty much suck, because dell and gateway aren't going out of their way to deliver a quality product any more. dell used to have great tech support and good parts, now gateway seems to have better parts than dell, but both have fairly lousy tech support. damn.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:48 AM on December 4, 2004

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