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Apple and IBM: This Time It’ll Be Different (mondaynote.com)
63 points by microtherion 1063 days ago | hide | past | web | 15 comments | favorite

This time is different. It's like comparing apples to lemons (pun intended).

IBM is now a professional services company. They have almost half a million employees worldwide, not considering the many thousands of contractors. That's 5x more people than Apple.

IBM is in the business of 1) selling people's time, and 2) selling some software, to justify selling even more of people's time. Hardware is not a priority anymore.

Those who have worked in professional services industry know there's a cap on how much you can charge for each employee. Maybe 2-3x the salary, which will get you to the $200-250K range. Maybe a bit more if you have teams with unique skills (e.g., lawyers, scientists, creative talents), but nothing even close to the revenue per capita that a product-based company commands.

Case in point: IBM just got to #1 position on AdAge's ranking of digital marketing agencies [1]. Yes, digital marketing agency. A few years ago they weren't even showing up in the rankings.

Apple, on the other hand, is in the business of creating products out of hardware + software. That requires a much smaller scale, given that 80% of the manufacturing is outsourced. So when you look at the revenue per employee, you'll end up with much bigger numbers.

But a better comparison would be to add all the employees of Apple's direct suppliers. Just Foxconn, for example, has 1.29M employees and 40% of its revenue coming from Apple. Add it all up, and things start to look a lot more similar to IBM.

[1] http://adage.com/article/agency-news/2014-agency-report-reve...

These aren’t isolated bad endings. If you have the time and inclination for a nostalgic stroll through the list, you’ll see many more such disappearances.

This seems to be true at the smallest scales of businesses as well as the largest ones. I wrote about the phenomenon among smaller businesses here: "In business there are very few true partnerships" http://jseliger.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/in-business-there-a... .

A lot of junior consultants take a surprisingly long time to learn this. Evidently a lot of large companies suffer the same challenges.

I'm going to stir the hornets' nest and throw out a simple challenge:

Apple has lost their mojo. The implication is that Apple has lost their way "post-Jobs."


When they partner with the company they used to poke fun at (1984 Commercial)...

When the big news in the article is: "Valley gossip has it that IBM issued an edict stating that Macs were to be supported internally within 30 days. Apparently, at some exec meetings, it’s MacBooks all around the conference room table — except for the lonely Excel jockey who needs to pivot tables."

Is this Apple ascendant to fill the power vacuum as Microsoft crumbles? I think it's actually Apple being assimilated into the larger corporate world where Microsoft was only ever a small fish, even in their heyday.

"Hi, I'm a mac, and I'm a PC." Geeks always knew that Macs were, technically, Personal Computers. But I think I can see cracks in Apple's claim to "think different."

Apple set a high bar with Mac, then iPod, then iPhone and iPad. When they haven't had a WWDC keynote I've bothered to watch in years...

I'd love to be proven wrong. :)

If you haven't seen the last WWDC, or if you have seen it but didn't like it as a programmer, I guess you'll be hard to convince.

I shouldn't need convincing. Apple's own actions should be proof enough, don't you think?

Well, maybe that's my sketchy English, but I guess that's what I said. The last WWDC was the one to convince you, not me or anybody else outside of Apple. Proofs are effective if you don't degrade them constantly to worthless actions because of a former prejudice (not saying that's your case, but it's the case for many).

That's not particularly big news in the article either (that IBM support Macs internally). See this article from 2012: http://www.cultofmac.com/144386/if-ibm-can-win-with-macs-and... (Where it's postulated that IBM has the largest total number of Macs in an Org (outside of Apple))

Not exactly -- IBM is now mandating their internal systems support Macs (if the rumor is to be believed).

Beside the obvious problems with having to push that top-down when IBM already has so many Apple devices, there's the problem that they're late on Apple support.

They can't afford to continue to lag "the mobile revolution, which IBM has missed out on."

"When they partner with the company they used to poke fun at (1984 Commercial)..."

Then the Microsoft deal at Jobs comeback. They had issues, identified them and then luck or genius made them what they are. Except even without mojo, they're still huge so I believe they can't have a crisis reaction yet.

Maybe its the whole technology products that is in crisis. What is there to dream about ?

Apple and IBM both survive due to blind fans and platform lock-in. In Apple's case it's consumers, and with IBM it's corporations.

"I asked WolframAlpha for per employee, per year revenue and profit comparisons and got this:"

What? You did division of some trivially-obtainable numbers. Why do I care that you did this in Wolfram Alpha, and why on God's green and spinning earth did you need to put the answers in two PNG screengrabs, rather than just typing the answer out into a single sentence?

Why does that matter to you? It's citing a source and the png files were probably easily generated by taking a region screenshot... most articles on the web like to include a picture or two to liven it up. Why are you so angry?

Because the author, probably not the submitter, decided to do that in their article on their website. Also, as trivial as it may be to get revenue and employee numbers from annual reports, it only takes a few seconds to do in Wolfram Alpha.

I feel like most of the time savings were eaten up by making a bunch of little screen grabs to show us it was done in Wolfram Alpha. And it makes the information take up about five times as much space as it would if it was just written out in a sentence, and since the alt-text for each PNG is "Wofram IBM Apple Revenue" and "Wolfram IBM Apple Profit" the information is entirely lost for, among others, search engine bots, blind people using screen readers and any cached copies that have the text but not the associated images.

I came here for a bit of expert commentary on the article. I can only assume it must be pretty water-tight if we're sitting around arguing about this...

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