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01.08.1975 - 

Herb Grosch meint:

Checkup Time IV


The second of the Japanese combines, Nippon Electric/Toshiba, seemed to me in Munich in spite of its growing share of the home market to be at the mercy of Japan, Inc. (as embodied in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, or MITI). Because the underlying companies hat the

Honeywell and General Electric licenses from the '60s, their concatenation by MITI had obvious appeal, but the value of American technology from Honeywell has now dropped so low that Nippon Electric would do better to be put in with Fujitsu and Hitachi, so as to benefit from purely Japanese development and from the link to Amdahl. I believe MITI will do this, and before the end of 1978.

Let me skip ahead here and say that the Fujitsu/Hitachi combine looks like the ultimate survivor on the Japanese and on the world stage. I predicted they would not be put down before 1980, and this will be even more certain if the strength of the other Japanese computer companies, and of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, were added to the final enterprise. Still, keeping up with IBM beyond the end of the decade (December 1980) looks out of the question. And that, returning to the 1978 scenario, left Univac and Honeywell. I thought much better of Honeywell, and worse of Burroughs, in 1971 than I now do. I'll be very much surprised if Honeywell doesn't make an explicit exit this year, 1975.

It has sold off its peripheral leverage with Oklahoma City and cashed in its ontrol of BuII. All that remains is for it to turn over its customer base to Univac, Ó la RCA, and go back to thermostats. Even the flechette bomb market has dwindled lately, thank Heaven! Caught in the end-of-a-hardware-cycle period, which produces rentals rather than sales, at a time when interest rates were out of sight, Honeywell has had an atrocious cash flow problem, I look, reIuctantly, to its disappearance some three years earlier than my original prediction - balanced by the longer Burroughs span.

Finally, I said Univac would bite the dust in 1978. It has done very well with minimum new technology; stung badly by thin films in the 1107, it has extracted the absolute last drop of juice from third-generation componentry. I admire its ability to adjust to IBM's victories; I liked my 1108 shop in Gaithersburg under Bruce Rarnsay. Still, wishes aside, in there the money to make a really major new family, perhaps IBM-compatible - post-1976 IBM, that is - for delivery not later than early 1979? I have to doubt it, just as I doubt the durability of Burroughs in the big-machine business after 1978. Sure, someone has to build big data bank machines, super number crunchers. I have a candidate: IBM!

Earlier on, I quoted from "The Tempest." Let me close by doing it again, and from a nearby passage. It saddens me to do so. I think of myself not as a skilled futurist so much as one who is willing to admit the realities of a fantastic business. And of the poor dumb competitors. I say with Shakespeare

Our revels now are ended, These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air.. .

How sad! It need not have happened; even now it could be avoided. But I doubt that it will.

Dr. Herbert R. J. Grosch ist Editorial Direktor der Computerworld