Despite the tech media frenzy over the past week, there actually has been more going on in the tech world than Apples decision to become an Intel Insider. From its start with the MOS Technologies 6502 processor, Apple has been able to get seemingly limitless coverage every time it changes an engine. Considering that its a company with a closed-box, proprietary operating system bumping along at about 2 percent of the market and whose best days on the desktop are long past, CEO Steve Jobs does a great job generating a lot of interest in Apple. Heres a suggestion: After getting all those Mac aficionados to believe that the switch to Intel processors is no big deal, why not mention that when Apple goes fully to Intel, it will also switch to Microsofts “Longhorn” operating system? That will make Macs really, really compatible with the vast majority of desktops and laptops in the world.
Of greater importance in the PC business was Lenovos introduction of the X41 Tablet PC as part of the ThinkPad product line.
While I agree that the tablet computer business has been lackluster and driven more by Bill Gates desire for a Tablet PC rather than by market demand, Lenovos product introduction is important for other reasons. Lenovo, as Im sure you all remember, is Chinas largest PC company and became the worlds third-largest PC company when it acquired IBMs PC Division for $1.25 billion last month.
The tablet computer business has needed systems that are smaller, lighter, more powerful and less expensive than whats now available. While that sounds much like the history of laptop computing, those attributes are exactly what is needed to give the tablet momentum beyond vertical, niche applications.
A China-based company with a strong knowledge of manufacturing coupled with the ThinkPad brand is a powerful force—and much more important than a new processor for Apple.
Also of greater importance for the corporate computing market is the success of Dell in the services area. The companys torrid growth throughout economic upturns and downturns continues to be remarkable as it heads toward becoming an $80 billion organization.
You have to look pretty hard to find holes in Dells strategy of building computers and peripherals to order (and getting paid for the order before the company has to pay parts suppliers).
You could argue that Dell will always be tied to the fortunes of Intel and Microsoft, and you could argue that Dell will have to build a strong channel strategy if it hopes to align itself with the vertical direction that the technology industry is heading in.
You also could have argued, at one time, that while Dell could build a good box fast and cheap, it would not be able to translate that skill into the services business. Last year, however, the companys services business grew 34 percent, to $3.7 billion, and Dell is quickly laying the “nice company, but they can only do hardware” argument to rest.
As Apple continues to try building a music business around $1 songs that can be used only on proprietary music players, Dell is betting it can build a services business with the same standards-based approach it has used to build computers. And Ill bet that Apples music model will falter before Dells service strategy does.
And since Im counting technology stories that were overwhelmed in the Apple-Intel avalanche, I should mention Suns decision to buy Storage Technology for $4.1 billion.
If you want, as Sun does, to be the corporate source for technology infrastructure, then youd better have a strong storage story. Sun didnt have that story before, but now it does by acquiring StorageTek, a company that has been in the technology business since 1969.
Ill give kudos to Apple for getting lots of buzz from announcing a change that is still a year away, but in the world of computing and, in particular, corporate computing, what it did amounted to a lot of noise in a very small room.
Editor in Chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at [email protected].