It isn?t just that we seem to be witnessing the latest in a long line of death throes for the company. This time round, Apple?s saviour is the unlikely figure of Bill Gates, a fact which surely beggars belief.
True, Microsoft?s $150m investment is probably designed to keep the anti-trust people at bay ? while there?s a reasonable alternative to Windows on the desktop, Bill?s fortune is safe. But the circumstances of the deal were the stuff of high farce.
For a start, Steve Jobs, the man who co-founded Apple and one of Microsoft?s supposed enemies, annnounced the deal to a stunned audience while over his head towered a gigantic video-linked Bill Gates. Anyone who remembers the old Apple advertisements featuring an Orwellian, 1984-style video screen displaying Big Brother will not have missed the irony of the situation. Of course, in the ad, the screen was smashed by an Apple-using free-thinker.
More ironic still was that the new board announced by Jobs contains Larry Ellison, the head honcho at Oracle, and also one of Gates? sworn enemies. It is entirely possible that the whole thing was a huge ironic indulgence by Jobs. But the events of August tell us more than that about the industry we work in.
It seems that for many in the industry, small is not beautiful. Different is bad. If you don?t conform to the ?standard?, you may as well pack up and go home.
Of course, the evangelists of open computing deny that. They claim we can have a more diverse IT world that relies on loose standards to hold it together. But the experience of Apple and the myriad small companies gobbled by the likes of Microsoft, IBM and Cisco point us to a future where everyone uses roughly the same software on roughly the same hardware over one unifying network.
For IT professionals in large organisations, this is nothing to cry about. The simpler it gets, the less it costs, the more money is saved, the better the business performs. Imagine if all the railways had different gauges, or all the cars ran on different fuel. Chaos would ensue.
It?s possible ? just possible ? that the IT industry is starting to grow up. Sure, there is still a way to go. And it would be foolish to predict that only a Wintel world will remain. But what the latest news from Apple tells us is that the shakeouts in the industry are far from over. Choose your suppliers wisely: it?s the ones who survive that make the rules.
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