IBM used to be the computer company. When everyone bought personal computers in the ’80s and ’90s, IBM sold heavy, expensive towers to millions of households the world over. The term “IBM compatible” became as widely used as “googled” or “tweeted,” signifying DOS/Windows-based machines without name-checking those operating systems.
Yet IBM doesn’t sell computers anymore. You can’t go to a store and buy IBM-branded anything. The company completely changed their business model in recent years to focus on more complicated, big-ticket items while the personal computer market crashed and burned. (They even sold their ThinkPad business to Lenovo several years back.) IBM stayed ahead of the curve and followed the latest trends in technology without having to market to us common folk. They also made hundreds of billions of dollars in the process.
These days, IBM is a bit worse for wear. Sure, they’re still raking in billions and remain one of the biggest tech companies on the planet. At the same time, they stopped growing and lost a lot of business to others who caught on to their ideas. But how did the company lose their footing? Let’s take a look.
What does IBM do, exactly?
The company offers cloud-based solutions to businesses for pretty much everything. The company’s technology can outsource entire IT departments through automated, computer-based systems or contracted IT employees. They offer site hosting for major companies, healthcare applications for insurers and hospitals, and even power internet-connected devices. In the last decade, the company got into the machine learning space with their famous Watson platform, which can be used to analyze massive amounts of data in a short time.
Simply put, the company sells all sorts of services for every business sector imaginable.
How are they doing?
Good, but not that good. IBM’s revenue growth slowed down over the last five years, which hasn’t really been much of a hit with investors. Though the company is an industry leader, an employer of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, and worth hundreds of billions, they’re seeing tough competition. Google and Amazon both offer some cloud-based solutions comparable to IBM, as do many smaller niche startups. Interest in their products and services waned in recent years, and it will likely continue to do so as their competitors gobble up their market share.
Should you invest in IBM?
IBM ($IBM) is in a years-long slump. They still make tens of billions of dollars, but their revenue stopped growing over the last five years. If you believe the company could turn things around in the future and keep up with other cloud service companies, you’d definitely want to do more research on IBM’s future before you invest in them. If you feel their best days are behind them, you might want to consider in their better-performing rivals, like Amazon ($AMZN) and Google ($GOOG).