Open: How Compaq Ended IBM's PC Domination and Helped Invent Modern Computing

Open: How Compaq Ended IBM's PC Domination and Helped Invent Modern Computing

Rod Canion

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 1937856992

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The story of Compaq is well-known: Three ex-Texas Instruments managers founded Compaq with modest venture funding. Just four years later, Compaq was on the Fortune 500 list, and, two years after that, they had exceeded $1 billion in annual revenue. No company had ever achieved these milestones so rapidly.

But few know the story behind the story. In 1982, when Compaq was founded, there was no software standardization, so every brand of personal computer required its own unique application software. Just eight years later, compatibility with the open PC standard had become ubiquitous, and it has continued to be for over two decades.

This didn’t happen by accident. Cofounder and then CEO Rod Canion and his team made a series of risky and daring decisions—often facing criticism and incredulity—that allowed the open PC standard marketplace to thrive and the incredible benefits of open computing to be realized.

A never-before-published insider account of Compaq’s extraordinary strategies and decisions, Open provides valuable lessons in leadership in times of crisis, management decision-making under the pressure of extraordinary growth, and the power of a unique, pervasive culture.

Open tells the incredible story of Compaq’s meteoric rise from humble beginnings to become the PC industry leader in just over a decade. Along the way, Compaq helped change the face of computing while establishing the foundation for today’s world of tablets and smart phones.

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explosive growth of the market. Over the next two decades, processor performance and memory capacity grew more than a thousandfold. Screens went from bulky, heavy, and power-hungry monochrome cathode ray tubes to thin, light, and low-power color liquid crystal displays (LCDs). Data storage expanded from 40-million-byte disk drives to 4 terabytes—a 100 thousandfold increase. The magnitude of these advances is hard to comprehend today. But while technology would have advanced without the industry

to a great degree because all the popular software and peripherals quickly became available for it. It soon became the market leader, and the software and peripheral companies continued to first introduce their new products to run on the IBM PC. Although there were still a dozen other PC brands to which they would adapt their products over the following months, start-up PC companies would never get them. Then Compaq and a few other companies discovered the solution IBM unintentionally helped

special to us, but you know that we have committed to all our dealers that we will not give anyone special discounts that would give them an unfair advantage.” He says, “We aren’t like your other dealers. We give our customers better technical support and therefore deserve to be compensated for it.” The other participants join in and we all discuss issues related to their uniqueness and our commitment to our dealers. Finally, things quiet down. I look at Norman for a moment, trying to think of

add-in boards available to demonstrate its performance potential. That’s why we were committed to delivering a complete system, from Day One, that clearly showed the amazing performance EISA made possible. Compaq engineers worked with network hardware companies such as Novell to develop intelligent network controllers using the bus-mastering capabilities of EISA. Other Compaq engineers who specialized in storage technology developed a disk-drive array controller that delivered four times the

unless Kleiner agrees to do so?” We contacted Bill and told him the good news. We also said it was time for him to get on board. The train was pulling out of the station and he needed to be on it. Bill replied that he was ready to go. His infant daughter’s health issue had cleared up. He would resign the next day. Bill gave TI a month’s notice, but hoped it might terminate his employment sooner. His supervisor said he had a week to finalize his projects and hand them off. Unfortunately, that

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