IBM & Silicon Valley

I just read an interesting post from the Silicon Valley Watcher by Tom Foremski about why IBM has not made a significant presence in Silicon Valley after all the technological innovation excitements over the last many decades. Tom observes that IBM remains an east coast company (read New York). The executives always fly in for meetings and they talk and dress differently. With its worldwide presence, IBM has less significant presence here, besides its research lab in Almaden Valley. To be fair, IBM does have a big software development center in south San Jose. They also did have the big disk storage plant on Cottle Road since the 1960s, that was sold to Hitachi first, and now being converted to a shopping center.

I spent many years as an IBM employee here and always felt that it was a NY company. Executives were always deputed from the east to head business units here and several of them had the attitude of fixing these strange fellows in the west coast.  My years were before the Internet and dot-com boom of the mid to late 1990s. But the innovation scene has changed so much during these 12 years (counting Netscape IPO in 1995 as the start).

As an employee I felt totally isolated from the mainstream valley culture and now that I have been very involved with many valley start-ups and VCs, IBM feels like a services-centric big company where software focus is still on the big systems. The genY folks hardly know or care much for IBM, as it doe snot feel as cool as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, or even VMWare. Attending an event like Web 2.0 Summit or Web 2.o Expo, there is no presence of IBM. The post by Tom also mentioned that HP might forge ahead with its new management and Silicon Valley cultural advantage. We will see how true that will be.


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