BIG BLUES by Paul Carroll


The Unmaking of IBM
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 A savvy newsman's tellingly detailed report on the ruinous decline of IBM. Drawing on a wealth of inside sources, Wall Street Journal correspondent Carroll offers an unsparing account of a commercial juggernaut whose button-down culture, rigid bureaucracy, and complacent executives stifled development projects that could have ensured its dominance of the global computer industry well into the 21st century. In remarkably short order, in-house deficiencies and inroads made by nimbler rivals (Apple, Compaq, Intel, etc.) have reduced an erstwhile pacesetter to the status of a crippled colossus fighting for its very life in an increasingly unforgiving marketplace. As the author makes clear, moreover, Big Blue's downfall has caused widespread pain and harm. In addition to the economic costs borne by dismissed employees, host communities, suppliers, and investors, the US could lose a significant measure of its competitive edge in advanced technologies owing to appreciably lower research budgets at IBM. The principal virtue of Carroll's harsh reckoning is his chapter-and-verse fixing of blame for blunders that have combined to humble a once-mighty enterprise. Among other matters, he recounts how Big Blue (whose hierarchs stubbornly tried to protect the company's flagship franchise in lucrative but obsolescent mainframes) fumbled chances to open insurmountable leads in personal computers, PC software, laser printers, microprocessor chips, and allied products for which demand has proved brisk. Whether IBM's new stewards can plot a course that will let the debt-burdened leviathan regain anything remotely resembling its former eminence, much less profitability, remains a very open question for the author. Among other problems, he notes that layoffs and voluntary departures (spurred by attractive severance packages) have not only diminished but also demoralized the available pool of technical, sales, and management talent. Perceptive perspectives on computer errors of convulsive magnitude.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-59197-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993