IBMs PC Unit Retreat Is Good Business

Opinion: With its focus on services, Big Blue no longer belongs in manufacturing. Next question is who will buy the division: a competitor or a reseller?

The big news in Fridays announcement that IBM is selling its PC business is the fact that it is still in the business at all.

Lets face it. Except for its highly regarded ThinkPads, IBM hasnt been a player in the computer industry since the ill-fated decision to adopt a proprietary Micro Channel bus back in 1987. Couple that with its failed attempt to leverage OS/2 into the desktop OS champ—a quixotic quest that ended in the late nineties—and its obvious that IBM failed a long time ago.

Around the time that its desktop efforts were failing, IBM shed two other non-strategic assets—keyboards and printers. Thats how we ended up with Lexmark—and despite the fact that the company no longer makes my favorite buckling-spring computer keyboard, it still manages to pump out some pretty capable printers.

The last time I checked, Lexmark was making four bucks a share and was worth over $11 billion. Not bad for a "non-strategic asset."

/zimages/6/28571.gifNews that IBM is selling its PC business comes as no surprise to David Coursey. Read his Weblog here.

No, this isnt a big deal for IBM. The company long ago started focusing on services, not boxes, because thats where it thinks the money is. Despite those advanced labs in San Jose, Poughkeepsie and elsewhere, IBM isnt really a computer company anymore; its a consulting company.

IBM spent the last few years commoditizing everything below middleware, including the OS and the PC. That explains the fascination with Linux. A commoditized and free OS not only makes Microsofts key market position obsolete, it also makes the PC itself simply an off-the-shelf component. The consultants at the core of IBM have been recommending non-IBM hardware for years—Fridays announcement just puts the final stamp of legitimacy on something thats been going on for a while.

Next Page: A "painful and costly" road.