I just read an article in eWeek bashing Forbes’ top 100 list of innovative companies. I too read the Forbes article on the top innovative companies and came away wondering if they missed the boat. Just like Darryl Taft at eWeek, I also read about Google, the #7 most innovative company according to Forbes, spending millions of dollars buying patents from IBM. I read that article the same day I read the Forbes article.
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Basically I agree with much of what the author says on IBM and innovation. I deal in Portal, Social, and Collaboration so I tend to think in terms of software like IBM Portal, IBM WCM, Connections, WAS, etc. But you forget just how much more IBM does in hardware like their new screaming P7 machines or with Watson. IBM is so big and they spend so much on R&D you kind of miss it in the general news coming from IBM. Here are some great quotes from the article:
In this now-famous story told by prominent tech attorney Gary Reback (and broken in Forbes no less!), Reback talks of how when he was a lawyer for Sun Microsystems in the 1980s IBM came in and claimed Sun infringed seven of its patents. Sun stood up to the IBM team and provided evidence the company did not infringe all seven patents, but perhaps only one.
Then, according to Reback:
An awkward silence ensued. The blue suits did not even confer among themselves. They just sat there, stone-like. Finally, the chief suit responded. “OK,” he said, “maybe you don’t infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?”
After a modest bit of negotiation, Sun cut IBM a check, and the blue suits went to the next company on their hit list.
And IBM also was the first major IT vendor to get behind Linux. IBM helped establish the open-source operating system as a mainstream software platform in business by declaring in 2005 that it would not enforce its patents against the Linux kernel.
For its part, IBM became a leader in the supercomputer space and was the first to break the petaflop barrier – to operate at speeds faster than one quadrillion calculations per second.
So while I’m not sure I have enough data to proclaim IBM as the winner in the most innovative company race, I can wholeheartedly state that they are more innovative than Saleforce.com. I don’t hate Saleforce. Like Mr. Taft, I don’t believe they reach the level of IBM.