The executioner, dressed in dark blue three-piece suit, white shirt and stripped tie, is a familiar figure. The new ax, held firmly in the well-manicured hands, holds our attention: lt is smaller, simpler - a one-piece design. Perhaps the entertainment will be a little bloodier this time?
But the question whispered about the marketplace, as the tumbrels are heard in the distance, is, "Who are the victims???"
I refer of course to the new System/32. Whether well carried out or not, it certainly will sell in enormous numbers. Market growth curves, at least in North America (there is a nice bulge ahead for European mini sales) are smooth. So IBM succes must mean panic and pain for others. Who?
My first inclination was to look at Digital; I've been predicting a riposte to the DEC-10 entry for some months. But the 32 doesn't impact enough of the present PDP-11 applications area to fill the bill; maybe there is a System/72 somewhere in the wings?
No, it seems to me that the likely victims are Burroughs, Nixdorf, NCR perhaps, Olivetti and, to a lesser extent, ICL with its new and attractive 2903. The semiautomatic accounting machines have a very nice business, and it has been pretty much immune to IBM attack. But with slower growth in the media market, and the natural urge to use up some of the development investment already made around the world in laboratories and test areas, and with the special attraction that IBM does not already monopolize this particular subbusiness, it was a natural target.
Burroughs, the secret computer company, has had an interesting and profitable rise in the marketplace recently and now stands not too far behind Univac as the Western IBM competitor. lt hasn't done as well as it should with big machines - but it's done quite well with the small ones. And the Nixdorf successes in Europe are precisely in this part of the office spectrum.
The "no programming necessary" pitch is not an easy one to make, especially overseas, but if IBM can make it stick, the fancy bookkeeping machine people will be very badly hurt.
And all this while packaging the system so protectively that the plug-to-plug boys are almost completely barred from entry! Some ax! Some executioner!
Dr. Herbert R. J. Grosch ist Editorial Direktor der Computerworld