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Steve Lohr, perhaps one of the most underrated tech writers at the New York Times, argued in a post Monday that IBM is no longer a tech bellwether. Instead it is an class of its own, much like Apple (s aapl). This is the relevant bit in his article:
I.B.M. (s IBM) is doing its own thing in the enterprise market, much as Apple is in consumer technology. Both are separated from the industry pack. In I.B.M.’s case, to be sure, that separation has been a more subtle and evolutionary process than it has been at Apple, the blockbuster product machine.
I.B.M. talks about the “industrialization of services” as a key strategic goal. That industrialization process includes paring services jobs down to standardized, repeatable tasks; spreading the work around the world to where it can be done most efficiently and most inexpensively; and steadily automating simpler tasks with software.
The benefits of a globalized work force should diminish over time, as wages rise for skilled workers in India, for example. But if more and more services work can be done with software instead of people, I.B.M.’s profit margins could well keep improving — and the company could separate itself further from other tech suppliers.
Lohr is spot on. Apple (s AAPL) has been marching to its own drum, creating markets by producing products that eschew the conventional wisdom. IBM has done this by moving away from commodity hardware to a more “insights”-based platform approach.
By selling these intelligent platforms (Smart Cities and Smarter Commerce) as solutions instead of offering them as “packages,” the company has distinguished itself from the likes of Dell (s DELL) and HP (s HPQ), which are weighed down by their past and reliance on an older way of doing business.