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Big Blue flies its colors

Things may not always have gone smoothly for IBM, but Lou Gerstner must have gotten some sense of vindication when he says most of the industry is coming around to Big Blue's way of thinking--at least when it comes to enterprise customers.

ORLANDO, Florida--Things may not always have gone smoothly for IBM, but Chairman and CEO Lou Gerstner must have gotten some sense of vindication when he said today that most of the industry is coming around to Big Blue's way of thinking--at least when it comes to reaching enterprise customers.

Speaking at the annual Gartner Group Symposium here, Gerstner touched on many of the familiar themes: the network computer (can't come fast enough), browser wars (customers don't really care), industry standards (gotta have them).

But Gerstner's view of this scenario is that the networked computing era is forcing information technology vendors to think about providing integrated solutions instead of mere technologies, just as IBM does.

"I think the industry is coming around to our way in the sense that people are saying you have to have integrated solutions," Gerstner said. "This new networked computing environment will move the IT industry from its preoccupation with making the individual clerical worker more productive into the enterprise and solving enterprise problems.

"What is really exciting about the networked computer is that it holds the promise that perhaps for the first time in 15 years the IT industry will begin to focus on and deliver results on those things that CEOs worry about," he added.

Gerstner said what is important to these customers is not the browser but the ability to have platform-independent applications and solutions. IBM is totally committed to becoming an integrated solutions company and not focus on "raw technology" alone.

"It's not good enough for the IT industry to throw up the threat of change, of competitiveness, of forces that are difficult to deal with without help, not by inventing things and throwing them over the wall, but by delivering value and solutions," he said.

Gerstner takes the slew of recent alliances and partnerships as a sign of industry players getting wise to the needs of enterprises. He cited Computer Associates' acquisition of Cheyenne earlier this week as just one example of a vendor reaching outside to fill a hole in his strategic offering.

He also pointed to Microsoft's partnership with Digital Equipment and of Compaq Computer's acquisition of several networking companies as examples.