They were once multi-billion dollar technology companies and now they no longer exist!
Well we could leave it right there and just chalk up the demise of these companies to poor economies or even to a fatal flaw in their technology. But neither of these answers would be true. In fact, in their hay-days each of these companies would have been called the darling of the industry. What Wang did for business productivity shot them to the top of the charts back in the 80’s and at $3 Billion in sales with over 40,000 employees one would have thought them to be a long term contender. Wang got so overly focused on a single platform application (word processing) that by 1992 they had to file for bankruptcy.
In 1987 I was a software engineer doubling as a Systems Administrator for engineering workstations at a company called TRW (which was also a multi-billion dollar company that no longer exists). We were just migrating from DEC equipment to Sun Sparc Stations… and man did those things run fast (at the time). Sun was said to have (3) generations of workstations ready to ship but there was so much demand for their hardware the rumor was they were holding back the shipment of new technology until they gave themselves enough time to sell what was already going like hot-cakes. But hold on to that for a second while I back up to talk about DEC.
We had a gaggle of Systems Admins for the DEC VAX computers in 1983-85. DEC was crushing IBM at the time with performance/cost and shares of DEC stock were going through the roof. However, as Sun began to emerge there was a whispering on the wind about the proliferation of Sys 5 and BSD based operating systems. DEC was proprietary at the time and you had to be a PhD in VMS command line just to know how to boot a machine. With so much frenzy over Unix, DEC decided to get into the business but do it in a way that ultimately led to their demise. They had so much expertise in their own operating environment that they had to pay huge sums of money to get Unix developers on board and get their own version of Unix (called Ultrix) into market. But to pay for the development DEC came up with a scheme that ultimately put them in the ground. They decided to charge double the amount for system maintenance and software upgrades to all of the customers that had been loyal to them for years. And when Sun came out with higher performance minis and IBM fought back with their 6000 series, DEC was caught with their pants down. The net result was an exodus away from the VAX machine and no loyal customers to foot the Ultrix bill…. Good-bye DEC!
By 1990, Sun was the “Super-Hero” and they began to forge ground against the incumbents like IBM and HP. There was a huge following of Sun both in terms of performance/cost and in terms of the scientific community as Sun became known as the anti-establishment technology company sprouting forums for the enhancement of open source collaboration. So superior was their technology that the big mainframe companies tried desperately to steal their talent away. But the die-hards at Sun would have nothing of it. Besides creating the best platforms in the world, Sun had become the giant for networking with their mantra of “The Network is the Computer”. Driving network development through the precursor to Internet Protocol, Sun was on a rocket ship ride. But then something odd began to happen. Sun began to fragment their development and soon the performance of their equipment was not as stellar as their focus shifted to a world of Java collaboration. They had a great run but couldn’t figure out how to monetize all of their engineering efforts to create a Java enabled world. With millions of devices running Java clients, but no revenue streams, Sun began to bite the bullet… and now… swallowed by Oracle!
So now there are some new darlings on the block regarding Cloud Computing… aren’t there? And Citrix is staying the course with the technology that has enabled our growth for 20 years. We just announced XenDesktop 4, which is a logical path to virtualization… both for applications and for desktops. I think we’ve learned from the past mistakes of others that you’ve got to keep doing what got you here and do it better than anyone else. And don’t forget about the next generation of IT Services that are coming on like gang busters. We’re in that market too!