RealTime IT News

One Million More Blogs, One Less PC Maker

It seemed there wasn't any escaping the tsunami of blog news this week.

Microsoft launched its MSN Spaces blogging service; online dictionary MW.com anointed 'blog' the word of the year; HighBeam Research tapped a Blogger-in-Chief; and Bloglines' trumped its international expansion.

It was all-blogs-all-the-time, until IBM news made waves of its own.

The New York Times brought the lingering issue to the forefront again Friday when it reported that Big Blue is mulling the sale of its PC business.

As I type this on my IBM Thinkpad, the report says the sale is "likely to be in the $1 billion to $2 billion range" and "is expected to include the entire range of desktop, laptop and notebook computers," according to unnamed sources.

That IBM is considering selling the division to a Taiwanese computer maker may be the biggest open secret in the industry. Like clockwork, every earnings conference call or analyst meeting brings up the same question: When are you going to exit the PC business?

But even though the exit has been a foregone conclusion, it's still noteworthy because it's one of the last steps in a significant strategic shift that has been developing for years.

After all, IBM's future is not about selling technology to consumers, it's providing the infrastructure of business computing. The company has struggled for years in the PC business, noted analyst Mark Levitt, vice president of collaborative computing at IDC.

Look where IBM, and the industry for that matter, is headed: up the stack. Big Blue is busy helping businesses build out the next wave of its computing architecture.

IBM's hardware division is going gangbusters, as businesses upgrade their creaky systems or are goaded into new purchases by federal data retention rules. Its software group has built a major new foundation on middleware with WebSphere lines, and is seeing very fast uptake across most divisions.

Just last week, IBM noted that more than 100 ISVs have adopted its latest Workplace Technology platform that supports collaborative computing applications on much more than just desktop PCs.

As IBM itself said about its Lotus Workplace platform: Instead of relying on a PC-centric approach to managing software, the Workplace platform is a network-centric model that gives users access to only the software they need, while allowing IT management to distribute and maintain employee software environments based on unique job functions and requirements.

It's all about APIs these days, and IBM is rapidly building a new ecosystem with partners that help a new generation of networked devices serve up applications and data. (More details on the client computing model are on IBM's developerWorks site.)

And, of course, the lion's share of IBM's revenues come from its global services division, which includes consulting and managed hosting.

Still, tablet PC makers as well as other PC makers must be licking their chops as a formidable competitor reportedly gets ready to retire from the PC business.