I.B.M. Back on the Anti-Trust Chopping Block

As the government launches a new probe into I.B.M., bloggers analyze what it means for the company and the tech sector

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Is I.B.M. a monopoly? Though less of a goliath in the popular imagination than it once was, the company is under investigation by the Department of Justice for dominating the market in computer mainframes--high-powered data-crunchers that power the operations of many of the world's largest corporations, including banks and health care providers. Bloggers pointed out that while I.B.M. has successfully parried such allegations before, anti-trust sentiment in business and government has shifted.

  • It's the Government's Own Fault, writes John Paczkowski at All Things Digital. He recalls that DoJ willingly abolished a 43-year-old decree that was designed to prevent I.B.M. from monopolizing the original high-tech industry: punch-card tabulating. "Perhaps those restrictions were better left in place," he observes.
  • 'Just Like Old Times' Andrew Thomas fills Tech Generation readers on some I.B.M. history, including the company's last high-profile legal battle with the government-- a 13-year-long opus of a trial on similar anti-trust charges that finally concluded with the case being dropped in 1982. He also shares his personal experience with the company: "Back in the 1950s, IBM was ordered to make its technology available to its competitors, resulting in a burgeoning mainframe clone market in the sixties and seventies that, sadly, I can remember all too well, having worked in it. But that ruling lapsed at the end of the last century and IBM is now playing hard ball again." Nathan Koppel offers a similar remembrance at the Wall Street Journal: "Forgive us for feeling a touch of Disco Fever today. It feels like we are living in the Seventies with the news today that the Justice Department is investigating allegations that IBM has monopolized the market for mainframe computers."
  • Hope for Big Blue  At Daily Finance, Douglas A. McIntyre explains why the evolving tech-marketplace may favor I.B.M. in this case, even though the company is clearly still a behemoth: "IBM's case may indeed come down to whether mainframes are a discrete business, or part of a larger technical ecosystem. As is true with many antitrust cases, that issue could take months to resolve, both with the Justice Department and potentially in the federal courts."
  • Toughening-Up on Tech  Erin Geiger Smith notes that the DoJ's aggressive maneuver is less about I.B.M. and more about the government's newfound taste for corporate blood: "This investigation comes on the heels of probes into the Google books deal and Intel. Top antitrust cop Christine Varney clearly was not kidding when she said that review of anti-competitive behavior would be stepped up in the Obama administration." VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi concurs: "The new antitrust case is one more example that shows the Obama administration will strongly enforce antitrust laws, in sharp contrast to the Bush administration."
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