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#AI@Work: What Can Happen to a Tech Giant?

What happened to these giants of technology? DEC failed to anticipate the PC and was bought by Compaq, which was bought by HP. Wang made minicomputers, trying to compete with IBM on the high end, but the word processor division was the money maker. DG bet the ranch on proprietary hardware and lost. EMC, a storage company, acquired DG, merged with Dell (a story in itself) and EMC was eventually sold to Dollar General. All three companies had serious leadership issues. All three were anything but agile. All three had chances to survive but made serious strategic mistakes.

Hardware vendors tried to lock the customer in or make it expensive and hard to switch vendors. Then the market changed. No one really cared about the hardware anymore. The new draw was the ability to run third party software. Changes in MySQL and software development caused changes in the hardware markets. Vendors fixed on service contracts and hardware upgrades began to vanish. High speed storage was not part of the minicomputer world. When Apple and IBM jumped into PC power architecture and Motorola picked up the manufacturing contract, these moves stuck a dagger in DG, too.

Proprietary hardware was becoming obsolete and so was DG. In 1988, DG leadership, led by Tom West, put together a report indicating they needed a heavy investment in software, or they could not compete with IBM and DEC. DG needed to get out of the proprietary hardware business. Instead of trying to compete with these two larger companies, DG would try to make commodity machines and run UNIX software. That worked for a while. Vendor lock in the computer market was over and the customer had won. DG didn’t vanish into bankruptcy but was gobbled up in a takeover by EMC in 1999. EMC stopped all production of hardware and was sold to Dollar General in 2009. The last member of the Massachusetts Miracle (DEC, Wang and DG) met its demise in 1999.

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