IN THE NEW IBM, MAINFRAMES ARE NEITHER BIG NOR BLUE

They still call it big blue, but maybe not for long. Back when IBM acquired the moniker, blue referred to the signature color of its computers, and big described their size. Called mainframes, the mammoth computers were as massive as locomotives and just as powerful when it came to processing data. Big Blue once held more than 80% of the market in its iron grip.

But not even IBM could withstand the seismic shifts that rocked the industry in the early 1990s. As personal computers increased in power, many customers began moving their data-processing chores to smaller, desktop systems. The shock...

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