Jack Kuehler, the former president of IBM who helped bring the company into the PC era in the 1980s and who also forged strategic alliances with Intel, Apple and other IT companies at that time, died Dec. 20 at the age of 76, according to several media reports.
Kuehler, who also served as vice chairman of IBM’s board of directors, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, according to obituaries in The New York Times and other media outlets.
After earning degrees in electrical engineering from Santa Clara University in California, Kuehler joined IBM in 1958 as an associate engineer and worked at the company’s San Jose California Research Laboratory. From there, Kuehler steadily moved up through the ranks at IBM, eventually becoming vice chairman of the board and then president in the 1980s.
A list of Kuehler’s positions and accomplishments at IBM can be found here.
In the late 1980s, Kuehler was appointed president of IBM. At the time, he was the company’s highest ranking engineer and his appointment at that time showed that IBM was concerned about competition from other IT companies both in the United States and overseas. Kuehler’s appointment as president was also unusual since many of IBM’s highest ranking executives came from the sales side of the business.
While Kuehler worked at IBM for decades, his biggest impact on the company came during the 1980s, when he helped guide IBM into the PC era. During that time, he persuaded IBM to invest in Intel, which was struggling at the time due to the rise of several Japanese semiconductor companies.
Later, Kuehler helped develop the relationship between IBM, Motorola and Apple that would eventually develop the PowerPC processor. Apple continued to use the PowerPC chip in the Mac until 2006 when the company switched to Intel processors.
Although Kuehler was trained as an engineer, a 1989 New York Times article reported that he was also an effective spokesman for IBM and Kuehler was usually tasked to introduce new products to Big Blue’s sales force.