If an IBM Leadership Shakeup Falls in a Forest, but No One Is Around to Hear It, Does It Make a Sound?

Tom Krazit, reporting for Protocol on July 2:

IBM President Jim Whitehurst is stepping down from the No. 2 leadership position at the company less than three years after IBM acquired his former company, in just one of several leadership changes announced Friday.

Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of global markets, will also leave the company, said IBM CEO Arvind Krishna in a press release right before the three-day holiday weekend. Rob Thomas, who has led IBM’s Watson initiative in the past, will become the new senior vice president of global markets.

Did you catch this story 12 days ago? I almost didn’t. IBM is still a very big company — #42 on the current Fortune 500 list — but they’re just not relevant in the way they used to be, or the way today’s big 5 tech companies are.

It wasn’t too long ago — 20, 25 years? — when a leadership story like this at IBM would have been all anyone in tech talked about for weeks to come. They’ve been diminished not because the government broke them up or curbed their behavior through regulations, but simply because they faded away. It is extremely difficult to become dominant in tech, but it’s just as difficult to stay dominant for longer than a short run.

I don’t offer this observation as an argument against any and all regulation and antitrust investigations of big tech companies. I’m simply arguing that regulation and antitrust lawsuits should be wielded with surgical precision, not broad strokes. Competition and progress work.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021