International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM): its company motto is Think… and thinking was what it did when it discarded businesses it once dominated, such as personal computers, and transformed itself from a hardware manufacturer into the No.1 technology services company in the world. The old IBM, which sold large and costly mainframes, evolved into a new service-oriented business that helps customers manage their technology. The company’s services business now includes PwC, the technology consulting business IBM acquired for $3.9 billion in 2002, which was then absorbed into its own IBM Global Business Services. Today this consulting division employs more than half of IBM’s 427,000 employees.
In 2010, IBM’s consulting and technology services generated gross margins of 32%. The company’s software business, which accounts for 20% of revenue, had margins of 88% in the 3rd quarter of 2011. IBM also owns more patents than any other US based technology company. It invested $6 billion in R&D in 2010, the equivalent of 6% of its revenue, compared to $3 billion, or 2.4%, at its rival Hewlett-Packard.
The areas that IBM is focusing on now – cloud computing, analytics and emerging markets are part of its carefully planned strategies for global growth.
Earlier this year, IBM announced a $38 million investment to build a new Asia-Pacific Cloud Computing Data Center in Singapore to exploit the potential of cloud computing through its comprehensive solutions and services. The new facility in Singapore will extend IBM’s globally integrated cloud delivery network that includes centers in Canada, the United States and Germany. The company also has 13 global cloud labs, of which seven are based in Asia-Pacific countries namely China, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and India.
Another cloud computing data center will be built in Langfang, a city near Beijing, under the collaborative efforts between IBM and the China-based Range Technology. The 620,000 square meter facility, which is to be owned by Range Technology, is scheduled to be completed in 2016. The data center, the largest in Asia by floor area, aims to serve mainly government departments from Beijing and across the country, but will also be open to major banks and private enterprises throughout China. According to IBM spokesperson Harriet Ip, the center is also designed to support the development of a new information technology hub being built in the area.
IBM’s data-center business in China has tripled in the last four years. In 2010, China overtook Japan as IBM’s second largest data center market, with the U.S. as the company’s number one market. Moreover, the Asia-Pacific market for cloud computing is set to grow 40% per annum through 2014 to $4.9 billion, according to IDC Asia Pacific. IBM is well positioned to take advantage of this growth by establishing regional data centers that will provide the necessary infrastructure for growth of key cloud computing areas.
IBM is headquartered in Armonk, New York. As of September 2011, IBM is the second-largest publicly traded technology company in the world by market capitalization. In 2011, Fortune ranked IBM the 18th largest firm in the U.S., as well as the 7th most profitable. Globally, the company was ranked the 31st largest firm by Forbes for 2011, and 18th most innovative company by Fast Company. IBM employs more than 427,000 employees in over 200 countries, with occupations including scientists, engineers, consultants, and sales professionals.
For 2010, IBM’s brand was valued at $64.7 billion. IBM’s closing value of $214 billion on September 29, 2011 surpassed Microsoft which was valued at $213.2 billion. It was the first time since 1996 that IBM exceeded its software rival based on closing price. However, IBM’s value is still less than two-thirds of Apple’s value of $362.1 billion.
Though faced with strong competitors such as Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ:ORCL), Hewlett Packard Co. (NYSE:HPQ), Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT) and EMC Corp (NYSE:EMC), IBM is still viewed by many industry analysts to be a heavyweight in the cloud computing market. Its strong cash balance will no doubt help it acquire more companies with high intellectual property assets, which will drive further growth in the upcoming quarters. New CEO Virginia “Ginni” Rometty says that despite IBM’s deep pockets and $100 billion in 2010 sales, she plans to keep pressing her management team to take more risks and embrace change. “Whatever business you’re in, it’s going to commoditize over time, so you have to keep moving it to a higher value and change”.
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