Same Topics Discussed 25 Years Ago

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-03-16 Print this article Print


Same Topics Discussed 25 Years Ago

"Back in 1986, we were talking about the same things we're talking about today: Are these new technologies powerful enough? Are they manageable enough?  Are they secure enough? Are they enterprise-worthy enough?" Gens said.

"Back then, some smart players sort of woke up and said, 'You know, these aren't just cool new technologies; they are in fact the foundation of the next generation of growth and opportunity.' They immediately began reconfiguring their business models and products to take advantage of this second platform, and jump on it and ride it."

Gens asked the audience if it remembered Cullinet, one of the first software vendors. Cullinet competed directly against IBM, making the IDMS database management system and the integrated software package Goldengate.

"Cullinet had a really good product for the first platform, but when it came to the second platform, they made a lot of mistakes," Gens said. "Goldengate was meant to compete with Lotus 1-2-3. But in 1986 they made a critical error: They decided not to sell this PC software package through PC retailers. You had to call up their direct sales rep to buy it. Can you imagine buying a $500-$600 software package over the phone?"

Cullinet had wanted to maintain account control. "It seemed like a strategy, but it played out as insanity," Gens said. "It was a disaster."

Digital Equipment Corp., which made highly regarded mainframes and terminals, is an example of a smart company that didn't grasp the client-server wave quickly enough.

"They were a company that was on the rise, they were challenging IBM, and the future was bright for them," Gens said. "But they made a lot of mistakes around that jump [missing the PC] that ended up dooming them."

Another company that took the wrong fork in 1986 was Wang Laboratories, maker of terminal-based computers.

"Wang was also a powerhouse of its time, but they also missed the PC," Gens said. "They took a first-platform mentality. They said, 'Well, we're late, so we'll use the latest, most powerful Intel chip,' but the problem with that was it wasn't binary-compatible with the first chip set applications. They thought they were going to blow the socks off the competitors with a powerfully performing new PC, but what they didn't get was that the users were buying the value of the ecosystem of all those apps."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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