BIG BLUE BITES BACK

IBM LAUNCHES A HOSTILE BID FOR LOTUS IN A MOVE TO SEIZE CONTROL OF THE FUTURE OF DESKTOP COMPUTING

Can IBM ever be cool? until last week, the evidence was slim. Yes, company chairman Louis Gerstner urged employees when he arrived two years ago to dispense with formality and send him their thoughts via E-mail. Then he instituted a dress-down policy and had IBM take out 50,000 subscriptions to Wired magazine, the chronicler of online culture. This year he paid for irreverent TV spots, including one showing one Czech nun telling another that IBM's OS/2 Warp software "sounds pretty hot."

But last week Gerstner, 53, proved his company was really serious about getting with it: he moved to seize control...

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