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IBM To Leave The Desktop? 333

Matey-O writes "John C. Dvorak's got an interesting article on IBM's behavior towards desktop PCs of late. In short, aside from the profitable laptop sales, their desktop sales lost the company roughly $1B in a serioulsy UP market. Showing no interest in the 20 year anniversary of the desktop, it looks like IBM wants to get out of the industry it effectively started. " Granted, the article is extreme conjecture, but it's still an interesting thought - the Thinkpad group, tho', rocks.
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IBM To Leave The Desktop?

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  • I guess that is why Dell, Gateway, Apple and others are making SO much money selling desktop computers?
    • Actually, Dell and Apple were the only two computer companies to post profits this last quarter. Gateway posted nice losses. Apple profited by $66 million.

      Now, I don't know about you, but to me, $66 million is a fair amount of money...
      • I'm sure Apple will find a way to get rid of it; look at when they bought Jobs that 90 million dollar airplane...
      • 66 million dollars is about the same as a FEW HOURS worth of interest on microsoft's cash assets. How's that for perspective?
      • by darkPHi3er ( 215047 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @10:18PM (#2757092) Homepage
        "Now, I don't know about you, but to me, $66 million is a fair amount of money..."

        while $66 Million is a large amount to me personally, from a corporate point of view, esp the Global 2000, it's lunch money....

        and Apple is a small, boutique computer maker, that had gone down from nearly $10 billion in sales to nearly $1 billion in sales....if the iMac hadn't come along when it did??????

        (keep the flames to yourself, i support both Apple and wider PC choice by buying them...i'v bought (just for my personal business) 6 in the last 12 months...)

        what exactly can Apple do with the $66 million?

        is it enough to start a whole bunch of R&D programs into Natural Language or Data Mining?

        maybe a few small R&D programs could be started with that money, but what do you do about bonuses for your best workers, rebates to your best channel partners, R&D into improving current generation products, cash payments to Motorola for G5 production, etc, etc.

        Blue makes THE VAST MAJORITY OF ITS ****PROFITIBILITY**** on's estimated by industry insiders that Blue lost ***20 billion dollars*** on OS/2 alone (though they won't admit to more than 10-15 billions lost), and more billions were lost on the MCA-PS/2 desktops

        about 3 years ago, there had been a push from Global Services inside Blue to dump ALL the h/w (except big iron) and just concentrate on their highly profitiable services and consulting efforts...

        the ThinkPad line was restored to prove that they could do it, (i've owned 3 in a row, 770ED, 770Z and an A22P, they ROCK) they've restored their rep in laptops and now many inside Blue want to move seen by IBM's really strong $$$$$ committment to LINUX and Java....

        the Wintel PC, from the standpoint of the much debated ***innovation*** is D-E-A-D...that doesn't mean that many, many billions more won't be sold, but each year the margins will get thinner and thinner as the PC falls into the "home appliances" category...with appropriate accompanying (much, much lower) commodity hardware margins

        that's why the Wintel Boyz are pushing the upcoming Tablet PC so hard, to try to maintain their eroding margins on CPU's (i owned the original Tablet PC, the Grid Convertible, even if the thing had worked as designed, it's one of those ideas that look better on paper, it's a niche machine design, and will stay that way, all marketing hype aside)

        another view on Apple's 66 million dollars profit...if the story is true (about a one billion dollar loss for ibm on PC desktops last year)....

        IBM lost ***FIFTEEN TIMES AS MUCH MONEY**** in one year as Apple made, and for IBM, the loss wasn't even noticeably in either their stock values/market cap or overall analysts' buy recommendations

    • I don't know about Apple, but Dell has been steadily adding enterprise solutions to it's product line. And dell even has "consultants" to come in and set up all that stuff for you or sell you a solution. No one makes money on just PC's anymore.
  • bah (Score:1, Troll)

    by grub ( 11606 )
    We all know Apple started the desktop market. IBM just got into it once Apple's hippy founders were gazillionaires. Nothing gets a large corporations attention like money.
  • I though IBM had lost its (desktop, not laptop or server) market share years ago, mainly to Compaq, HP, Dell, and Gateway.
    • well, they did try to come back with the aptiva line. Nice looking PCs, just to...ehh.
      • The IBM Aptiva sold well in Europe. The market there is completely different from the USA market.
        When I bought one in Sweden for my married niece, her husband checked on warranty service and technical support before I was allowed to consider purchase. Four years later, he now does his own hardware and software upgrades, and still likes the Aptiva, a completely dependable machine.
  • by daeley ( 126313 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @05:11PM (#2756025) Homepage
    Does this mean that the older, behind-the-times folks I know who still refer to all Windows machines as "IBM-Compatible" or "IBM PCs" can shut the hell up? ;-)
  • by iiii ( 541004 )
    Seriously, when was the last time you saw an IBM desktop? As a computer professional, having seen and worked in many different offices in the last few years, I can't even remember the last time I saw one. Laptops, yes, plenty. Servers, yes, a few. Desktops, none. They had already lost the battle there, this is just the nail in the coffin.
    • I'm on one right now, bought earlier this year. There are several hundred throughout the building I work in, and probably quite a few more in other buildings.

      I think they're more or less out of the mainstream consumer field, but businesses still buy a fair number of them directly from IBM. At least ours does...
      • I have a couple of client's that will buy nothing by IBM. Now granted they are a minority, and I rarely have cause to visit them, since nothing ever breaks. IBM hardware is some of the best out there unfortunately it does come at a premium price.

        I know several people that cannnot justify paying more that $1500CDN on a machine when they know that can replace in 12 months for $600CDN. The though here is why pay for a warranty/support that you're probably not going to use.

        I can tell you that a big buyer is the Government, but that's hardly surprising. Dell is making inroads with the government, but after 2 or 3 support calls the big depts go back to IBM or HP.

        • IBM hardware is some of the best out there unfortunately it does come at a premium price.

          Funny, that sounds a lot like Digital's home PC offerings.

          Well, if IBM gets out of the business, there goes the last brand (aside from Apple) I can actually recommend to people in good faith. So far as I can tell, every other brand is equivalently crappy, but I've never had a problem with IBM gear.

          Oh, well. Time to go buy some poorly constructed components, I suppose.

    • by R2.0 ( 532027 )
      "Seriously, when was the last time you saw an IBM desktop? " Er, 20 seconds ago? I work for a construction company and IBM's are all we buy. Although we're moving to laptops, we still buy a fair number of desktops. Their support is great, and they're bulletproof. We put them if the most un-computer-friendly environments (dirt, dust, and construction trailer electrics) and I have yet to see one crap out on a hardware problem.
    • every day....

      the AVID non linear video editor suite is based on IBM intellistations becauise of the hardware quality and performance.

      IBM desktops and towers are commonplace in the entertainment and media industry.
  • by reaper20 ( 23396 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @05:12PM (#2756030) Homepage
    I really like the Thinkpads and some of their desktop machines. I think IBM PCs will always have that image problem that they are expensive and underperforming, regardless of their true merits.

    It's a Dell/Compaq world for PCs at the moment. They're cheap, come with Winprinters, winmodems, built in audio, built in ethernet, and crappy support with crappy drivers. Our company just bought ~100 Dell Optiplexes, and they are horrible, horrible performance, horrible price, and junky hardware.

    Say what you want about IBM's products, but their support is awesome.

    No matter what happens though, IBM keyboards are the best ever made. :)

    • I think IBM PCs will always have that image problem that they are expensive and underperforming, regardless of their true merits.

      I guess the lack of an L2 cache a few years back was a mere image problem?
    • No matter what happens though, IBM keyboards are the best ever made. :)

      A friend of mine has an IBM keyboard and the feel is very nice. But until they start making ergo keyboards, count me out.

      Recently my ferret spilled a drink into my keyboard. It was a $30 computer show special, ergo shaped with touchpad, no-name... but man, it was comfortable.

      In the 2 weeks it took me to find a replacement I developed borderline carpal tunnel. Which means I am on the edge all the time I guess, but it didn't take much to push me over. My backup keyboard is ergo-shaped, but slightly concave instead of slightly convex. That small difference was enough to send me to the doctor.

      FWIW I eventually did find a keyboard with the shape I needed: a Memorex MX 3000. Anyone who has wrist pain -- I recommend trying this keyboard out. Very comfortable.

      (There were a number of Microsoft keyboards available but they all had serious deficiencies like +-shaped arrow key groups or weirdly placed and small pg up/pg down group keys. I couldn't find one that had the convex ergo shape AND a normal set of pg up & arrow keys. I think one may have come out since my Memorex purchase.)

      • Never let your ferret drink near the computer!
      • The Microsoft KB you want is the Natural Keyboard Pro. It's the one that has the 20 or so extra buttons at the top for media, internet, etc. I've been using these keyboards since they came out (gone thru 2 already :) and I wouldn't buy anything else for myself. It has the normal arrow keys and normal insert/home/pgup/etc keys. Beyond that, it's not quite as big as most ergo keyboards and of the 5 or so different ergo keyboards I've used, it's definitely my favorite as far as comfort.
        • Ah yes, I forgot about that one -- and there's one nit-picky keyboard criteria I have that excluded it for me. It has no L-shaped return key. None of the MS keyboards do. Now, I could adapt to a small return key and I would in preference to getting carpal tunnel, but the Memorex had all the right shapes (and was available locally) so I chose it even though the key feel isn't quite as satisfying. After 15 minutes I didn't even notice anymore anyway.

          Oversized Return key
          Ergonomic layout
          Convex shape
          Nice key feel
          "T" arrow keys
          Full-sized Insert/Delete group

          Can't get all of them at once, and I spent hours and hours shopping. In the end I sacrificed a bit from key feel.

    • Word.

      Optiplexes are some of the most overpriced shitty computers out there. I should know, I've got one at work. Underpowered is putting it nicely. I got a celery 466 w/ 64mb not even two years ago. I had to slap in some more ram at my own expense just so it wouldn't crash with word, excel and two mozilla windows open at the same time. (Of course that could have been the Mozilla factor but...).

      The sad thing is that our IT guy knows better too. He's just to lazy to go and get 10 machines custom made for 1/2 the price. At least he knows that I know they're crap. Got a 19" monitor out of that. Everyone else is running on old 15"s.

      I fucking hate Dell.

    • Dell's support r0x0rz. They FedEx you replacement parts at the drop of a hat, and pay for FedExing the bad part back to them.

      I'd buy a ThinkPad if they lost the stupid pointer nubbin in the middle of the keyboard. Give me a touchpad, damnit!

      Yes, IBM's keyboards (especially the clicking type) are built like tanks.
  • The company has not been a leader with its desktop machines, and appears to lose money on them. Rumors persist that IBM will end this aspect of its business.

    They've really never dominated the PC industry once the clones entered.

    They make great servers, microcomputers, mainframes, and good desktops, but the stuff is expensive.

    Personally, I don't like the NetVista line at all.

    We had PC 300 GL's in school, they were great.

    I've got 2 Netfinity servers here at work, can't complain about them, or IBM's service support one bit. I'd buy IBM desktops if we weren't currently entrenched in Dell. (which I have no problem with either)

    They need to embrace Linux, even more than they do now. Maybe their own distro, one that works perfect with ThinkPads and a new line of PowerPC machines!


    Salmon, mang!
    • I'm curious... why don't you like the netvista line? Personally, I love the case design. I have to open up PC's a lot to swap around harddrives and such, and I've never had an easier time getting to the hardrives/cd-roms, etc as I do with this line. And I've never had any of the hardware fail on me yet (Can't say the same about IBM monitors tho... We've had a few of them die right out of the box)
  • by EMIce ( 30092 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @05:14PM (#2756043) Homepage
    Ask anyone selling hardware now how the market is and they'll tell you it's damn tough, be it Dell or the corner shop. Profit margin's have steadily declined as competition among manufacturers and quality has increased. Machines after IBM's PS1 and PS2 lines were made mostly by subcontractors and were poorly built. They had this coming, especially with the way the market has gone. It's a good thing they kept the Thinkpads in-house, their still my favorite laptop by far.
  • This is the legacy of Columbia PC, finally taking it's toll.

    Tho those PS/2 systems and PCjr were pretty good whacks at coffin nails.

  • by turbine216 ( 458014 ) <(turbine216) (at) (> on Thursday December 27, 2001 @05:17PM (#2756065)
    IBM is, for some ungodly reason, stuck on manufacturing the UGLIEST desktop computers that the world has ever seen!! They seriously need to take a hint from Dell, HP, Compaq, and (to a somewhat lesser extent) Apple - all of them have made NICE LOOKING consumer-level PC's. While it is true that IBM has never shown any slack in pumping out good quality computers, one must remember that the average consumer is more interested in something that looks good. PC's with rounded, curvy, colorful (or black or silver) exteriors are leading the market, and the other manufacturers out there are capitalizing on this. IBM, on the other hand, hasn't released a decent looking PC since the first Aptiva line back in 1994. Everything since then has been big, clunky, boxy, and generally ugly - and the sales figures have reflected that trend. Even the Thinkpads, as good as they might be, are horribly ugly machines!!

    All i can say to IBM is that it's their own fault that they aren't selling anything. ANY armchair analyst can see that they weren't trying hard enough to stay in contention with the other manufacturers, and because of that, they lost. Sorry, IBM - sucks to be you.
    • And the Dell Optiplex is pretty????
    • IBM is, for some ungodly reason, stuck on manufacturing the UGLIEST desktop computers that the world has ever seen!! ... one must remember that the average consumer is more interested in something that looks good.
      Several companies tried to make "pretty" Wintel boxes. Neither the companies nor the boxes are around any more. It would appear The Market decided not to pay extra for non-ugly Wintel computers.

      (Steve Jobs doesn't give consumers the choice between ugly and pretty Macs. I don't know for sure how many people bought pretty Macs because they were pretty, and how many because they were Macs; very few and almost all, I'd guess.)
      • It would appear The Market decided not to pay extra for non-ugly Wintel computers.

        Neal Stephenson wrote about this in his essay In the Beginning was the Command Line []:
        PC hardware makers who hire designers to make their stuff look distinctive get their clocks cleaned by Taiwanese clone makers punching out boxes that look as if they belong on cinderblocks in front of someone's trailer.
        But I'd tie it in with another point Stephenson makes in the essay: the Wintel world pretends to be immune to aesthetics, but actually has a well defined aesthetic, an aesthetic that proclaims respectability, common sense and businesslike appearance. I think that the "prettiness" of Macintosh hardware is outright repellent to most of the people making purchasing decisions. But instead of saying this, the purchasers say that looks are irrelevant.
    • I dunno, can YOU justify an extra few hundred bucks for a fancy case with a light bulb inside the case, and a window so you can see it?

      Ya do know that the only visible movement inside a case is the CPU fan, right?

      PLEASE tell me you people know that!!!!

    • Oddly enough, I have to agree.

      IBM's Desktop PC's look like they are 5 years old as soon as you open the box.

      OTOH, I prefer working on IBM machines to HP or Compaq machines, at least IBM builds a decent machine in a decent case with (mostly) standard parts.

      Just my $.02

    • I'm sure some people do, but I don't, and most people I know and work with don't either. I look at price and features. Fancy packaging and 'sleek' designs be damned. I want to know the specs - speed, memory, etc.
    • Who uses 'looks' to decide to buy a computer? I'm sure some people do, but I don't, nor does anyone I work with. Price/performance/features/specs - those influence my purchase decision. "Sleek" exteriors and flash packaging don't do it for me.
    • Me, I like mine (Score:2, Informative)

      by duckygator ( 171704 )
      I'm running a NetVista at home and a ThinkPad for work. I think ordering them is a pain in the butt, you have to wait a lot longer than with Dell and others to get it, and you'll pay more, but the differences really show when you take one apart.

      I've torn apart PC's from Dell, Compaq, IBM, Packard Bell, and some local custom shops. The IBM's are the only ones I've seen that look like they were actually engineered - not simply thrown together. The quality in the boxes shows through when you look beyond the MHz specs and prices.

      Again, I like their products, buy them, and recommend them when I can because I believe they are some of the best constructed ones around. Unfortunately, IBM ends up leaving a bad impression when people order them, wait longer to get them, and pay more than they are used to with the Dells and Gateways.
  • IBM's desktop PCs have been losing money for years. The products are actually reasonably good, and support is not bad either. The main problem, I believe, is the poor marketing and packaging: their product line is very confusing, and their web site disorganized. As a mail-order supplier, their prices aren't quite good enough, and they aren't in enough (any?) stores.

    ThinkPads are only selling because they really are a lot nicer than the competition in many cases. Customers put up with all the other problems in order to get them. But for desktops, there are plenty of alternatives.

  • I worked for the University of Wisconsin, my deparment mandated that IBMs were the ONLY PC to be purchased, mainly because of the consitency of the parts that they used, and we had a lot of microchannel (MCA) token ring cards. 1997 was the last time I saw an IBM PC in use.

    It may also be because the they were priced at a premium, but I've also noticed that no stores distrubute them any more, COMPUSA, Best Buy and even Radio Shack used to carry IBMs. I wonder whose decision it was to remove them from the shelves.
    • I too worked for the UW about a year ago, and while the department i was in (Pathology) had mostly Dells, the hospital had IBM PC's a-plenty. The pathology dept got new office and lab space in the hospital recently, and every one of the non-Apple PCs we put in was an IBM. They're still out there...but from what I can tell, mostly only educational/govermental institutions get them.
    • I used to have a genuine blue IBM AT-339 in our lab. The thing ran for 10 years before 1) the power supply died (of course, nobody ever checked for lint :-P and we needed to upgrade the PS anyways), and the CMS 30MB drive died. We replaced it with an 80MB IDE drive and controller. IT was still running for about another 4 years before we surplussed it. I kept the keyboard though...
    • IBM cut out their consumer PC division in the US awhile back. But they kept selling them overseas and to government/educational customers.
  • Dvorak (Score:2, Troll)

    John Dvorak and "interesting article" in the same sentence.. now there's an oxymoron for you.

    It's been a long time since Dvorak could be considered a journalist. Take what he writes with a grain of salt - most of it is needlessly inflammatory, speculation. Just look at some of the absurd pieces of Linux FUD he's authored in the past.

    His concept of journalism falls neatly into the 10 o'clock news scaremongering school of thought. He'd 'break the news' on Bill Gates' army of cyborg warriors if it would get his column some hits. ZDNet in general, and Dvorak (and his MS-worship pal, David Coursey) specifically cannot be trusted for decent news/commentary.
    • Re:Dvorak (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sid_vicious ( 157798 )
      Say what you want about Dvorak, but his 'Inside Track' column was where I first heard about (among other things):

      1) Touchpads
      2) DVDs
      3) GMR Hard Drives
      4) Cheap laser LEDs
    • Re:Dvorak (Score:4, Offtopic)

      by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @05:38PM (#2756176) Journal
      His concept of journalism falls neatly into the 10 o'clock news scaremongering school of thought. He'd 'break the news' on Bill Gates' army of cyborg warriors if it would get his column some hits.

      So what you're saying, on both counts, is that Slashdot should seriously consider hiring him for a job as editor?
  • Dell has won (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @05:28PM (#2756127)
    Being a profitable desktop computer maker has little to do with technology these days - its all about operations, logistics, and cost controls. Dell has simply outmoded the usual suspects, HP, Compaq and IBM, kaing it simply too costly to stay in the market.

    For IBM, this is a smart move as commodity electronics is not closely related to their new profit centers - research, services, and high end computing.

    For Compaq and HP, continuing to go up against Dell is simply going to result in more layoffs and downsizing.

    • Don't forget semiconductors!
    • As you mentioned, it's a commodity market. Dell is simply the most efficient producer and distributor of what has become a commodity. Desktop personal computers have matured to the point that huge profit margins have vanished. For everyone but Apple, the OS is controlled by Microsoft, so it's difficult to innovate on desktop hardware without closely coordinating with Microsoft.

      The software rules the hardware. IBM is in a much better position than other players like Gateway (ouch!) to get out of boxmaking, because they've always been a service company. Fighting for thin margins against a company (Dell) that is optimized towards doing one thing (distributing custom computers using just in time inventory controls) is a fool's errand, and IBM is smart enough to know that.

  • by garoush ( 111257 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @05:29PM (#2756133) Homepage
    IBM's key business focus is on services. When it got into the desktop PC market some 20 years ago, it got in by accident not knowing what the result would be.

    In addition, many companies go down the drain simply because they keep beating on a dead horse (their product) hoping that it will come back to life and win the race. IBM doesn't see it like that -- it will let go of failing business and move on.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    we thank you :)

    -ibm thinkpad guy
  • by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @05:40PM (#2756184) Journal
    I think IBM's biggest screw up was their proprietary desktops. The PS/2s, the Aptivas... weird hardware, high prices. Compaq/Gateway/Dell are desktop companies. They know how to make a buck in that market. Remember back in 1994 when you could buy an IBM desktop with OS/2 and Dell/Gateway/Compaq with Windows 95? They bundled a failing OS (OS/2 rocks, M$ marketdroids made it fail) into a proprietary box and charged more money. I'm not a genius, but it's pretty simple to see how IBM lost their desktop market.

    Still, Netfinity servers, Thinkpad notebooks, and their midrange (AS/400, S/390) servers rock. IBM knows that's where their money is, and they do a great job at it.
  • Ever notice? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Cat ( 19816 ) on Thursday December 27, 2001 @05:41PM (#2756187)
    How these columnists just wet themselves in the rush to declare something "dead?"

    This is the same columnist who used to anchor the group of "Bob the office guy" columnists at PC Magazine with gems like "if you don't have a 21-inch monitor, then your PC is worthless."

    Easy to say when all your hardware is comped there, Sparky. How about a column or two about something OTHER than how great it would be if we could just hook all these neat colorful high-tech little icons together and make a new enterprise application? Can't point and click your way through orbital mechanics, can you? Oops, there's another blue screen. Better upgrade Norton and Dr. Watson!

    I always got the feeling that the constant pounding of the upgrade drum over there was really just so they could get a new "sleek" desktops of icons to click. This column is no different.

    I'm sure IBM will close everything down now and go back to marketing something that columnists don't understand so they don't have to read "Is X dead yet?" "Time for X to go?" "X in 2002: What to expect" on every magazine cover.

    X is dead, therefore you should buy Y. Same article, different nouns. Yawn.
    • I always wondered the same thing -- and that's probably why my first weekly online column, on the old Pathfinder ( Netly News, was called "This Old PC" and talked about how to save money with used hardware and low-cost upgrades. And I first wrote about Linux in that column. As far as I know, that was the first "jornalist installs Linux and lives" piece ever written.

      A while later I took my column, under the "Cheap Computing" name I always wanted it to have but Time's people wouldn't allow, to what was then Andover News Network, later, now OSDN, and started writing more and more about Linux and free software.

      I have always avoided writing "Gee! This new thingie is so wonderful you gotta go buy it right now so you can be kewl" articles. This is probably why I never got "big" in mainstream computer mags and ended up working on Slashdot and NewsForge and now

      Funny thing... I'm a lot happier writing about ways ordinary non-rich people can get the most out of limited computer bucks than than I would be writing new product blurbs. And I'm perfectly happy with my mid-to-low-end not-the-latest non-comped hardware. But that's just me. :)

      Earlier this evening my wife and I had supper with Linux developer Russell Pavlicek (and wife), security guru Jon Lasser (and girlfriend), and Slashdot compatriot Timothy Lord. We had a great time.

      These arethe kind of people you meet when you broaden your computer-oriented writing scope beyond the usual. Better than hanging out with hardware marekting people, believe me!

      - Robin
  • The Bottom Line (Score:2, Insightful)

    by neoevans ( 179332 )
    If IBM would stop trying to sell PCs based soley on the name 'IBM' and start selling based on the performance of the PC itself, maybe more people would buy one.

    In Vancouver BC, Canada, an IBM Netvista with a CELERON 800 (?), 128MB of SDRAM, 20GB HD, ONBOARD Video (eeew) and several useless "features" like a V.90 modem, can cost around $1999.00 CAD! (That's like $999 USD)

    Meanwhile, a "clone" PC at any local outlet: PIII 1100, 256MB SDRAM, 40GB HD, 150W 2.1 Sound, 10/100 NIC, 32MB DDR Video Card, etc... costs $780 CAD ($390 USD).

    It's not like the IBM PC is any more reliable, after all, BOTH PCs come with WinXP installed?

    I don't care if they invented the PC, doesn't mean anyone with half a noodle would pay $1999 for a freaking CELERON!
  • by Swaffs ( 470184 )
    With IBM's recent interest in Linux, I don't think it would make sense for them to back out of the desktop market. They have the ability to overthrow Microsoft.

    With the usual MS crap being sold at increasingly ridiculous prices, everyone is looking for an alternative to Windows. Linux is the obvious answer, but the problem remains that not enough people, and not the right people take it seriously.

    Managers don't feel comfortable about switching their whole systems over to a "free" OS. They like to have a big name like Microsoft to back their software. This is exactly where IBM comes in. They've got the big name that the PHB's like, and they've got the resources to create a distro that works. One that's guaranteed to work with their hardware, and in concert with their servers and laptops. Its a total solution.

    As for the home desktop user who also wants to get away from MS, it offers the same benefits. A linux distro that can come preloaded, is guaranteed not to conflict with the hardware and has great tech-support. Plus with a name like IBM behind it, and enough homogenous linux machines out there, some of the major software and hardware developers might start to take linux seriously as well.

    The best part of it all, is that this is the perfect beginning to the demise of Microsft. They've set the stage with their recent moves for people to look elsewhere. Now IBM just needs to slip into that gap and give everyone exactly what they're looking for.
    • With IBM's recent interest in Linux, I don't think it would make sense for them to back out of the desktop market. They have the ability to overthrow Microsoft.

      It is nice that IBM has taken an interest in Linux and the opensource movement, but I think that they are more focused on the server end of the equation. In addition, how many of those of us who run linux proficiently enough to keep it around as an actual OS (not just install it and look at it and then boot back into windows) are going buy and overpriced desktop PC instead of just going to fry's and assemble it from off the shelf components? It's cheaper that way, and more in line with the philosophy that drives opensource (i.e. control and understanding of the tools that you are using.)

      It's going to be application developers that drive the move to Linux on the desktop, not the hardware resellers.

    • Actually its a good move.
      IBM is putting 1Billion Dollars into Linux research.
      Almost everyone who wants a PC, has one.
      People are getting tired of upograding every 2 years so another MS OS can crash.
      Solution? Provide them with a viable alternative, Linux.
      IBM has the Power to create, and/or back, The neccessary MS alternatives.
      If IBM released a good multimedia app for linux, it would be very sucesful, even as a binary they sold.

      By good I mean, put disk in, install, put ICON in appropriet place and desktop, and just work with whatever Multimedia thing the user want to do.
      This would really start to kill MS in a big way.
  • I have always heard the whole "You pay more for IBM because of the name" thing. I bought an Aptiva about 3 years ago, the same time as many of my friends bought Gateways/Dells/etc that cost significantly less. Mine has been turned off only for hard drive upgrades, adding RAM, and kernel updates. Most of my friends have had to toss their boxes and replace them. I'll pay a little more for longevity.
  • Someone above wrote ...

    IBM is, for some ungodly reason, stuck on manufacturing the UGLIEST desktop computers that the world has ever seen!!

    I remember back in '96 when I saw my first "swanky" IBM Aptiva. I almost chuckled at the non-standard case, the wierd drop-down-from-the-monitor drive bay, and those odd holes in the side of the case. Although it wasn't a success, you certainly can't accuse them of not trying to be stylish, and doing so way ahead of most competitors.

    Now, IBM already seems to have ditched its not-so-well-received Aptiva line of computers. They have two "desktop" lines: the Intellistation (primarily intended for office use) and the NetVista (for home or small office use).

    The Intellistation (successor to the PC300GL line) is what you expect a workstation to look like. A box with stuff in it. Pretty standard, as the comment above says, pretty ugly, but not really intended for anything other than work. My only gripe with them is that the graphics system seems to be sub-par, but then again, this thing isn't meant to really be a graphics demon.

    The NetVista [] line warrants a bit more attention, especially the X series. IBM is experimenting again, in my opinion with great success, trying to change the paradigm of what a desktop PC looks like. The X Series models are totally upgradable (I slapped an extra 512MB of RAM into mine) and very pretty. They take the best of the ThinkPad line and put it into desktop form. The drop-down bay makes a reappearance, and the thing has USB ports all over it. I've found it to be an excellent little home system. Again, my major gripes with them (owning an X40 myself) are the graphics system (the newer models come with a Rage 128, which trumps my SiS 330) and an oddly non-standard keyboard. Also, the lack of serial and parallel ports on it is a little annoying - I'm not totally USB yet.
    • the intellistation is inteneded to be a graphics demon. you have to order it that way. from standard all the way up to the NLE system called AVID.. (which by the way cant be bought with gateway,dell or compaq hardware running it.

      The intellistation running the AVID editor system at work blows away everything I have ever seen... but I guess a $2000.00 Open GL video card does that.
  • Dvorak's right; IBM makes very little money on PC's, perhaps is even loosing money, when looked at by itself. That's why they no longer sell to people through office stores and so on. But IBM has a services/solutions arm, and having a PC division allows the services division to sell complete IBM solutions, which is very profitible. So, the moral here is to look at things from a company point of view, not at individual divisions.

    Note, I work for IBM, but have no real connection to the PC division, though I do think my ThinkPad rocks. The above is conjecture.
  • It is becoming a lighweight server.
    Game consoles, Handhelds, cellulars, laptops, notebooks, mp3 players, etc, are sharing the market with the PCs.
  • I remember the microsoft FUD from recent history that went something like "Linux on the desktop is dead". I think the microsofters were right, but they also forgot about something else: The desktop itself is dying or dead. The new mantra for gui and OS programmers/designers should be "The desktop is dead" - move on or die with it.

    Microsoft can't really beleive that the desktop is going to continue to be a source of increasing revenue can they? Not with their behavior with regards to the gaming console market, hand helds, java replacements, etc. They themselves seem to be operating under that principle.
    • Even though they say they use paper and pencil to run their company, they know what is going on. They know the numbers. Why do you think they are willing to spend $500,000 on marketing the X-box? Willing to sell the product at a large loss? WebTV was their first failure to get a PC into the home entertainment cabinet so now they are buying their way there.

      The Y2K scare was great for Microsoft, Intel, and the PC industry in general because most corporations upgraded every pc in the preceeding few years. Those PCs had 500MHz, or up, CPUs and won't need to be replaced for another few years.
      The consumer market is saturated with PC's. But a PC as a game console allows MS to sell at a loss and become the owner of the home entertainment center. So they think..

      But you are right, the desktop is going nowhere fast and look, Linux is getting squeezed into all kinds of other devices. It's getting there with reliability, it's getting there quickly, and best of all for the vendors, it's getting there cheaply. No Microsoft tax for crap.

  • Companies like Apple and Commodore started the desktop revolution. IBM thought that there was a worldwide market for maybe 3 computers.

    As a desktop computing company, they never really showed leadership. Yeah, they came out with the PC x86 architecture. But it's a crappy architecture.

    IBM thought computing on the desktop was so valueless that they allowed anyone who wanted to to clone the hardware, and many companies were able to do so -- and sell for far less than what IBM was charging for their hardware.

    If IBM had wanted to be competitive on the desktop, they would have sold their hardware at a more competitive price, and, if not lock other vendors out, then at least try to control their access to the market through leveraging patents.

    IBM cared so much about computing on the desktop that they let some tiny, barely competant company called Microsoft deliver what would become the standard OS for the desktop, DOS, and let them have full control over its development without trying to take a piece of their profits.

    DOS sucked. If IBM wanted to compete in the desktop market, they would have developed their own OS that didn't suck. And, while they did come up with OS/2, they did so far too late in the game for it to mean anything, after giving far too much away to MSFT.

    They had a good business sense for hulking behemoth mainframes and servers and such, but they've never really been a true player on the desktop, even if Wintel machines are commonly called IBM-compatible PCs. The term is one of pure legacy derivation, really. IBM controls nothing relevant to desktop computing these days.
  • IBM (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 56ksucks ( 516942 )
    You know, just a thought, but, maybe IBM would be making alot more money on their desktop PC's if they hadn't taken there desktop PC's out of the stores and decided to only sell them online. Seems to me it's hard for someone to buy a computer online when they don't have a computer to begin with.
    • Re:IBM (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AnimeFreak ( 223792 )
      Not entirely true, but it brings up something to mind. At one time they used to sell IBM computers at Radio Shack, but now when you go into Radio Shack you only see Compaqs and Packard Bells.

      IBM still sells their computers in stores, but they only sell them in "IBM Stores." There are two near me and they look pretty cheesy. Gateway did the same thing and a few months ago, it flopped.

      In Canada, IBM sells their computers through a company called Buck a Day [] through TV advertisements.

  • I've long though that this would happen and that it's overdue. Within IBM the PCCo is seen as a money loser, they are always let slide when other groups are expected to profit and given bonuses and raises depending on how much they actually do. They sabotaged the PSP group and many people believe they have blood on their hands for helping to fail OS/2.

    They are also an integral part of IBM's business as a solution provider.

    Back in the early 90's and late 80's PS/2 cost, literally 2 to 3 times more than a clone of the same vintage. They had MCA, to boot. There are also a fair amount of those machines still in service. It's not terribly uncommon in certain enterprises to look in the back room and see an old PS/2 486 class machine serving up files for a work group or driving a printer. While certainly not a speed demon, it does the job. With MCA bus mastering in some situations it still makes an accpetable server for certain tasks. Part of the reason is becuase the machines are about as reliable as PCs get. IBM at that time was holding their hardware to much higher relibility standards than just about anyone else and they were more expensive because of it. At that time I thought they were doomed and would be out of the business. If you're selling solutions to people and those solutions will last decades and PCs are an integral part of the user interface you need good PCs.

    The same can be said of RS/6000. Outside of a few markets they are under performers. I've also seen RS/6000 machines fall off of loading docs and get run over by a forklift and have cases that are all dented to hell and still run flawlessly. Is it the fastest workstation? No. Does it do the job IBM needs to sell a $10million contract? Yep. and because of that they keep making them.

    I keep thinking that they need to get out of it or just focus on netfinity and thinkpad but the truth is, when they are selling an industrial solution, who are they going to buy PCs from? Compaq? Hell no, they are a big competitor. Dell? Possibly but I just don't see optiplexes running for 10 years like an IBM PC. Gateway? You've got to be kidding. If you think of a PC as the world's most expensive peripheral and you need those peripherals to run mainframes, minis and super computers then IBM will keep selling them.

  • From's deadtree version (this part is not available in the online article base):

    PC MARKET SHARE and changes in 2001 compared to 2000:

    Dell: 23.6% (up 15.2%)
    Compaq/HP: 22.1% (down 18.05%)
    Gateway: 7.4% (down 16.3%)
    IBM: 5.9% (down 10.7%)
    others (mostly clones): 40.9% (down 6.0%)

    The parent article ("The Perfect Storm", Nov.2001 issue -- that should be in the online archive) also noted that "Gateway is living on borrowed time" but said of IBM (and Dell) that it is going "full steam ahead" tho primarily via the server and online market, having pulled out of the retail storefront market.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."