Another Look at Bill Gates View of the Computer Industry

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2002-04-22 Print this article Print

Is the computer industry really as competitive as Bill Gates' claimed in his testimony?

In court testimony on Monday, Microsofts Bill Gates asserted that the computer industry in 1983 was dominated by vertically integrated providers, but that the industry now is far more competitive across every layer of the IT stack. He illustrated the latter point with this chart.
To put it politely, this is a carefully drawn picture. Note that Microsofts logo appears four times, but is spread across three different columns. IBMs and Suns logos are likewise not aligned. IBM is unaccountably omitted from the category of consulting; Apple is omitted from operating systems and peripherals; Microsoft itself is omitted from peripherals and consulting. Sun is omitted from computers, which appears merely spiteful, as well as from consulting. Presenting HP and Compaq as separate companies seems, shall we say, retrospective.
Aligning the logos, and at the same time correcting these and other omissions or distortions, eWEEK Labs offers this alternate view:

The result is not definitive -- perhaps IBM and Sun belong in even more rows, and there are surely more companies that we could have included. Even so, this is a rather different picture, and one that does not support Microsofts case so well.
Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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