Blue Macs – IBM decides on merit

Crazy? It ain't necessarily so

Four years ago From The Register No. 19 -- four years ago A couple of months back we ran a fairly crazy piece about IBM building PCI PowerMacs for Apple, but last week it started to look less crazy. It seems IBM is going to be running up machines of this class for Radius instead. So where does this get us? It's not exactly epoch-making that IBM is doing contract work, because the company has a lot of plant and a lot of manufacturing expertise, and if an outfit like Radius suddenly wants to roll out finished PCs it's obviously going to need to hire both of these. Logically, you'd expect IBM to be able to pick off a few of the new entries in the Mac cloning field. If IBM bought a stake in Radius (which Radius was loudly denying would happen, to the accompaniment of disappointed share-selling, last week) it would have been more dramatic, but there isn't at the moment an obvious point in Gerstner doing so. It can't yet be clear to him that Mac clones are going to sell like hot cakes (this is hardly clear to anyone outside of Apple), but there's obvious manufacturing synergy between building PowerMacs and Power Personal machines, and as and when IBM does build Macs of its own to sell, the experience will come in useful. And ultimately, if IBM can get the sums right it coiuld always pitch for Apple's manufacturing business, couldn't it? Apple has been becoming a software company for years, and when it finally makes it, it will surely at least ask itself what it's doing in manufacturing. But Scott McNeally is far more interesting. Another Register story that looked a little crazy at the time was that Solaris for PowerPC would be out in late May, to the accompaniment of the big IBM PowerPC launch and much Netcentricity from Sun. Fair enough, the May announcement got canned, but only slipped to June, ie now, and the merry pranksters at Sun have already started their own version of attack marketing. Splenetic IBMers have been forced to run around denying that it's the company's intention to dump AIX and switch to Solaris, as this is apparently what the Sun SWAT teams have been telling its customers, and it's clear from this that McNeally reckons he can steal RS/6000's clothes, probably build PowerPC machines of his own, and end up in a dominant position he can use to finally beat Microsoft. This isn't as dumb as it might seem, either. IBM's AIX people have pretty much their own customer set and although they'll have to build different sales channels if they want to take advantage of a growing mass-market, it's not entirely clear they have the cability to do this. Motorola's PowerPC resellers currently report an eery lack of competition from IBM, despite the fact both IBM and Motorola are currently shipping AIX, and that customers are in many cases currently salivating at the prospect of Solaris' arrival. So if hardware sales DO take off, and IBM's Sleepy Hollow division continues to snooze, Scott could win big. ®

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