What is IBM missing? Larry Ellison!

You may like the man or not, he is extremely successful and does not like to loose at all. He might got used to it, in the last few days, because the Kiwis (Emirates Team New Zealand) are making mince meet out of Team Oracle, but the America’s Cup isn’t over, yet. But he did something right. He made Oracle THE NUMBER ONE in the RDBS market. No doubt there. IBM is trailing far behind with DB2. There is no question, both products are excellent, but IBM lacks a Larry. 
When you look back the last decade or so, you feel how IBM is slowly but steadily going down. It’s like a ship that every time you see it, looks a bit more beaten and nobody cares to do maintenance. A bit of colour here and there is all that is applied. The cook was let go long ago, to be replaced by vending machines. The engineers do what they can with a swiss army knife, because the tool box was sold to honest Joe, a car dealer in a distant port. The teak deck chairs were replaced with plastic ones from China and the nice woollen blankets with the ships name stitched on them, were sold to the paper mill. Why is this happening? Because the owners, a bunch of people not stepping on board ever, because they get sea sick, just want a continuos flow of cash. The captain is between a rock and a hard place. The last captain served his term and left the ship to the then first officer, in a already rather poor state. The new captain got to the helm with the clear order to keep money flowing, no matter what. What goes around comes around. 20 years ago, that ship run aground, low on fuel and overloaded. To make it float again, they got one of the best captains around, who threw half the staff and a lot of cargo over board (on the shallow side) and looked for new ports and work to do. The owners cheered and let him do it. After getting afloat again, a new captain came on board and suddenly this greed of the owners popped up. The rest is history. All that is left to the new captain, is go as long as possible and then run it on a sand bar, before it sinks completely. Then they call Half-Leg-John with Lora I-Like-Your-Finger the parrot and repeat the history of getting afloat again, but that will cost. It will cost a lot more then bringing the ship in the dry dock now, fix it and walk in all the hotels and companies, either small or big, in the area to bring in new passengers and cargo.
What has Larry to with it? He owns Oracle, not in terms of shares, but in terms of personality. It’s like Steven Jobs or Bill Gates or others. Companies flourish much better, if they have a boss who IS the company. IBM had that till the 60’s. Can you imagine Gini Rometty going with IBM as a sponsor of something like the Americas Cup? Just because she wants to win that old mug? Or keep it for the matter? Sure, Larry owns quite a bit of Oracle, but there is the same bunch of greedy owners, he has to deal with. But they follow him, because he IS Oracle.
Looking at the ship, what is really amazing, is the fans it has. Even in his present battered state, people love it, like no other ship. Unfortunately the owners don’t care a lot. More and more the fans feel the rejection. 
Have there been famous parties on the ship in the past, you may get a free pack of chips, if there is some outdated stock left and you ask nicely.
Or in other words, the recent development about the different conferences that are organised by a bunch of highly respected members of our community makes me sad. IBM gets a almost free ride and does not get on board. Oracle certainly does not have this kind of community and the IBM of today does not a lot to deserve it and it starts to show. I was shocked about the comments on the blogs that announced the opening for the Connect 2014 registration. Way too many said they don’t go. Apples developer conference is sold out in 17 seconds and IBM will probably have to fill seats with students. Once this was one of THE tech conferences, today it is just another one, and not even a sexy one.
There are just too many things I don’t get. Keeping the stock value high does protect the owners investment, but if this is just a new coat of paint, the rust underneath continues to grow. In the end, the ship falls apart despite a lot of shiny paint.
If the captain says, „that ship must be essential to the passengers“ I think he overestimates the importance of it. That only works if you want a monopoly. That would mean he has to sink the competition first. The passengers are essential to the ship! That is how it works in a normal world (I do remember somebody from that ship talking about locked-in problems with other vendors and how IBM will not do that).
A few decades ago, that ship was the queen of the seven seas, today it is just a ship among others and if the latter just do a better job in getting passengers and are nice to travel agents, don’t be surprised if nobody wants to board it.

Ein Gedanke zu „What is IBM missing? Larry Ellison!“

  1. Well said. Unfortunately, it feels like this ship is past that point of no return. Maybe I am wrong, but there comes a point when the cost of scraping off the paint, replacing the rusty parts, buying new deck chairs, hiring a new cook, etc. etc. is so expensive, nobody dares to propose it. This has been a long slow process, and reversing it would be a long slow (and very expensive) process, and I don’t see any corporate willpower to do that at all. IBM is desperately trying to slop paint on where they simply can’t afford it and hope to entice customers who don’t know better, but they are losing much of the hard-earned respect from many, many years ago. Sometimes I don’t think they’ll make it to a sandbar, but will simply sink one day, or lose their last engine and float around as a discarded hulk while their owners hurry about tearing the faucets off the sinks and collecting maintenance contracts that haven’t quite expired yet.

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