In recent years, as IBM has turned its marketing attention away from the retail PC in favor of its mainframe servers and services, the companys PC market share has dwindled.
Last week, the Armonk, N.Y., company used the unveiling of several PCs and services to help restore its old luster and tout itself as the only full-service computer maker.
"[The announcement] signals how IBM will play and win in the PC space going forward," said Jon Judge, general manager of IBMs Personal Computing Division, during a news conference last Tuesday. "The new products and services were launching today demonstrate that IBM is taking a dramatically different approach to the PC business than our competitors are."
One IT manager agreed and said IBM has been getting more aggressive. "They do seem to be trying to get back in the arena," said Marshall Fernholz, procurement manager for the American Medical Association, in Chicago. "They are pushing their PCs harder and extolling their designs and reliability."
IBM last week released three NetVista desktops—a high-performance X series, a midrange M series and a low-priced A series. It also refreshed its ThinkPad notebook line with four new models: the A30, featuring integrated wireless capabilities, including 802.11b and Bluetooth, and an embedded security subsystem; a low-cost notebook starting at $1,249; and the X22 and T23, which feature integrated wireless capabilities. The company also launched a set of services that it said will help reduce costs associated with managing large numbers of PCs.
Judge said that by leveraging IBMs technological developments—such as its security chip—and its extensive service offerings, the company is better positioned to compete in a rapidly evolving PC market.
"Price is clearly no longer the driving force behind corporate PC purchases because price is no longer a feature; its a requirement," Judge said.
IBM was the leader in PC sales in the 1980s, but the companys share of the market was dramatically reduced with the arrival of low-price competitors, first Compaq Computer Corp. in the late 80s and early 90s and more recently Dell Computer Corp., which this year became the worlds largest PC vendor.
Not long ago, many analysts were urging IBM to abandon its PC business after the company lost more than $1.5 billion on the unit between 1998 and 2000.
But over the past 18 months, IBMs PC unit has largely broke even after the company revamped its PC line and reduced manufacturing and inventory costs. Yet it remains to be seen whether IBM will be able to effectively compete against now-established rivals.