As I read those words, it occurred to me that there are eerie similarities between BMW’s position and things that happened in an entirely different industry almost 30 years ago. Given those similarities, I contend that BMW—one of the most iconic automobile brands of the 20th and early 21st centuries—appears to be following the same trajectory that led to the demise of computer giant, Digital Equipment Corporation, in the late 1990s.
Some Tesla owners are too young to remember Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). For those who don’t, David Farquhar of The Silicon Underground provides us with a one-paragraph summary:
“Digital Equipment Corporation was perhaps the second most important computer company in history, behind IBM. Its minicomputers challenged IBM, and, indeed, Unix first ran on a DEC PDP-7. DEC’s Alpha CPU was one of the few chips to make Intel nervous for its x86 line. It created the first really good Internet search engine [Altavista]. In a just and perfect world, DEC would still be dominating. Instead, it faded away in the 1990s. What happened to Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC?”
To answer Farquhar’s question, it’s fair to state that there are many reasons for DEC’s demise, but prominent among them was the company’s refusal to accept a changing technology landscape. Small, high-powered computers (e.g., Sun Microsystem’s machines) along with the personal computer were gaining momentum, but both were considered “toys” by DEC’s old-hand computing professionals. Both would come to dominate virtually every aspect of the industry.