The Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating IBM's computer market conduct and, depending on the outcome, it might just affect your beloved Apple computers. As everyone knows, IBM is the major player in the mainframe computer market but now their business practice of not licensing other hardware makers to run their software is causing issue.

The following excerpt is from an article by Associated Press writer, Jordan Robertson:

The accusations stem from claims by IBM rivals that they've been illegally frozen out of the mainframe market because of IBM's refusal to allow its mainframe operating software to run on non-IBM computers. IBM doesn't have many rivals anymore that make mainframe computers, but some smaller companies are trying to develop technologies that would allow the software to run on cheaper hardware.

They allege that IBM, which used to license its mainframe software to competitors and for the back half of the last century operated under an antitrust agreement with the government, stopped doing so in recent years to choke off competition.

It's possible that you don't realize the implications of these two paragraphs. Let me attempt to clarify them for you.

IBM created the mainframe software. It runs on IBM mainframes. IBM used to license it to other companies to run on their hardware. They stopped doing it. Now their competitors are upset by this practice.

Implication #1: If the DOJ finds against IBM, it essentially takes away IBM's right to innovate and compete in a market they created.

Implication #2: Apple is in a similar quandary, should the DOJ rule against IBM, in that Apple only licenses its operating system for its own hardware. Apple never sanctioned clones like IBM did in the PC market.

Implication #3: Apple clones will undermine Apple integrity and quality that's been their mainstay for all these years.

Implication #4: No company will ever be able to tie their operating system with hardware. For example, OS400 will have to be licensed for AS400 compatible hardware, mainframe zOS will have to be licensed for IBM mainframe compatible hardware, Solaris will have to be licensed to run on Sparc compatibles and the Mac OS will have to be licensed to run on Apple compatibles (aka Hacintoshes).

Implication #5: Cheap commodity hardware (read 'throw away') will dominate the world's data centers and become such a tragic loss for IBM, Sun (Oracle) and Apple that they each might release their software to the public as 'community' versions but still maintain their own proprietary branded software that runs specifically on their own hardware.

Not all bad, you say?

You haven't considered the real implication that summarizes all five of the others: If you can't innovate and outdo your competitors, why be in business at all? Why should Coke license Pepsi to pour Coke into Pepsi bottles? Why should Chevrolet license Ford to use Fisher bodies on their cars?

At one time, I believed that Apple should have licensed its operating system to run on clones but they were smart in not doing so. When you own an Apple product, you have Apple quality, Apple support and Apple service behind that product. If you have a clone, you have no Apple to assist you because clones can be made of anything.

I'm afraid of situations where innovation and quality are challenged. I don't want to trust mainframe operations to a clone. I don't want my niece to use an Apple clone in college. Too much depends on the integrity of both.

The DOJ hasn't ruled yet but I'm expecting the worst from them.

The only hope is that IBM and Apple would make those license purchases so prohibitively expensive that it would be pointless to purchase them without the proper hardware underneath.

What do you think? Should the DOJ take away IBM's right to innovate? Should they also take away the quality associated with the Mac or a Sun system?

8 Years
Discussion Span
Last Post by khess

If I create a product I should be able to do whatever I want with it. That's the beauty of capitalism and the depth of the businesses it creates. If you can be so wildly innovative as to emerge an entirely new industry, the only door that should remain open (if you're smart) is for the competition to be that much more wildly creative as to find a way to break into your innovatively new industry market.


The author misses the point of the DOJ's action Back in the 60s-70s, IBM refused to sell the software OS separate from the hardware. You could only get the software by buying a whole system. If you tried to put the OS on different hardware, they would remove the system as being in violation of their license.

Apple has always made the OS available or sold separately. The same is true of Microsoft. Both companies "support" specific hardware, and the courts have never compelled a company to do the work necessary to make their system work on any specific make or manufacturer. They have enforced illegal "withholding" of key material, and they have sliced and defined protection of Trade Secrets vs withholding product.

The Courts addressed the illegal restriction of use and availability of product. Note that both Apple and Microsoft license their OS for a "computer", not for a particular make or model. If a user wants to, they can try to make the OS work on their own hardware, that is the users prerogative. In the IBM case, the user was not given that prerogative.



You are correct! When the government can push us around to satisfy the pandering crybabies of the world, innovation will surely suffer.

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