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A brutal, ruthless monopolist resorts to hardball tactics, including lawsuits, license revocations, and finally its multibillion-dollar acquisition power to kill off upstart rivals. Nope, it’s not Microsoft. Great piece by Ashlee Vance in today’s NY Times about IBM killing off threats to its incredibly lucrative mainframe monopoly. Will be interesting to see how IBM responds. In the past they’ve often just gone dark on publications that run critical articles. That’s one reason you don’t often see anything negative about IBM in the press. (Another is that IBM also sometimes pulls its ads out of publications that step out of line editorially.) IBM views media relations as a form of advertising. If they’ve got some breakthrough in the labs, or some new product they’re hoping to hype, they’ll hand-pick a publication or two and tee up a story. They tell you what the story is; they set the agenda; they tell you which people at IBM you’re going to interview, and when; and every IBMer who gets interviewed has been scripted and rehearsed to death before you sit down with them. Nobody strays off message. Every interview is tape-recorded by IBM PR flacks. Those flacks write up a summary of every interview. That info gets used to prepare the subjects for the next interviews. If you’ve ever wondered why almost every story about IBM feels canned and pre-fabricated, that’s because it is.

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