What might IBM learn from Apple

Mark Fidelman blogged “Why every company needs to be more like IBM and less like Apple.” His arguments are cultural. IBM is supposedly open, more socially savvy. Apple is, in contrast, closed, secretive. Very different reality from the famous “Big Brother” commercial Apple ran during the 1984 SuperBowl, he says.

Let me come back to the cultural aspects in a moment. I happen to believe IBM should also benchmark itself against the areas I discussed earlier in week comparing SAP to Apple. What percent of revenues come from recently introduced products – new data centers, new software, new service practices? How do we become more vertically influential – as in industry changing not just showcasing healthcare or city uses of smarter technologies?

On many of those points, I would say most companies would want to emulate Apple not IBM.

Now onto IBM and social. One of my 12 attributes of the technology elite in the book is being socially savvy. IBM gets some play in that chapter for its social business initiative, but more prominent examples come from last year’s SuperBowl and integration between traditional and social media, Google’s I/O conference, Dell’s use of Radian6 to monitor social buzz, Nike+ as an example of gamification, Toyota’s plans to integrate its cars into a Chatter based network. The case study for that chapter is the Lexmark Genesis – the social features of the product and the social launch it enjoyed.

About Apple and closed. The book spends time on its ecosystem. Apple has allowed the biggest ecosystem of entrepreneurs and small businesses to evolve in the 600,000+ applications in the App Store. It bet on an Open Standard, HTML5 compared to Adobe with Flash or Microsoft with Silverlight. Its manufacturing is remarkably outsourced. If all that is closed, give us more!

About Apple and secretive. The book goes into Apple keeping its huge iCloud data center from public eyes, including Google Earth. It goes into Apple’s disclosing its anechoic testing chambers (each cost a few million) after the iPhone 4 antenna issues. I am big on transparency – but given what Apple has to hide from competitive or malicious eyes, I am ok with its secretiveness.

In fact, I would love to see more such innovations from IBM. And I would rather see it secretive and innovative, rather than social and a lumbering follower.

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CEO of Deal Architect, a top advisory boutique recognized in The Black Book of Outsourcing, author of a widely praised book on technology enabled innovation, The New Polymath, prolific blogger, writing about technology-enabled innovation at New Florence, New Renaissance and about waste in technology at Deal Architect.  Previously Analyst  at Gartner, Partner with PwC Consulting. Keynoted at many business and technology conferences and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, The Financial Times, CIO Magazine, and other executive and technology publications.

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