An informed assessment of what's in store for the computer industry now that IBM is no longer showing the way. Before looking into the future, Ferguson (a computer analyst/consultant) and Morris (Iron Destinies, Lost Opportunities, 1988, etc.) chronicle the sudden shift away from mainframes to decentralized systems (built around work stations whose circuitry is mainly comprised of lightning-fast microprocessors), which caught Big Blue (plus other stand-pat manufacturers like Digital Equipment) in the undertow. They also recount how IBM fumbled its chance to retain control in PCs, whose emergence helped make the business as much a software as a hardware game. Among other matters, they note that IBM's top executives remain sales-oriented and ill-prepared to choose wisely among cutting-edge technologies that can determine corporate competitiveness in a mercurial market where today's breakthrough is tomorrow's museum piece. Having set the stage, Ferguson and Morris address the issue of which suppliers might thrive in a field whose bellwethers have lost their way. Their money is on what they call a ``third force''--i.e., nimble, mid-sized enterprises (mainly based in California's Silicon Valley) with managements who understand the volatile state of the electronic data-processing art and who have the resources to capitalize on it. With minimally prudent assistance from Washington (which has not always been helpful), the authors predict, American vendors can gain a vanguard position during the 1990's. Despite massive government aid, they argue, vaunted Japanese sources (along with their high-profile US counterparts) remain committed to megaprojects that could confine them to commodity niches. And Europe, Ferguson and Morris conclude, has long since ceased to be a factor in the brave new computing world already taking shape. An upbeat, albeit cautionary, analysis. The accessible text has charts and graphs throughout (not seen).