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IBM in Trouble Over Mainframes?

The European Union is on the hunt for another American company to pester, and this time the EU has gone old school. Way old school. The EU is investigating IBM over claims of possible antitrust practices in the (we couldn't make this up) mainframe market.

Yes, mainframes! You remember those, right? Big iron? Computers that filled entire rooms? OK, we know that today's mainframes aren't like the ones that IBM sold in the 1950s and '60s. But still...mainframes? Does anybody even want to sell those things anymore?

Well, IBM does. And one of its competitors, T3 Technologies, makes software that can move mainframe functionality to servers that run Windows. It's T3, in part, that's causing the problem here by complaining about IBM to the EU in the first place. And who's behind T3 as an investor? You guessed it -- Microsoft.

It all makes sense now. IBM helped get Microsoft into hot water with the EU, and now Redmond is trying to turn the tables -- intriguingly, by going after a market that was IBM's bread and butter for decades (and still is, to some extent).

IBM, though, is no stranger to legal wrangles. The company has been doing battle with the government and antitrust plaintiffs on and off since 1952 and has mostly come out on top, even winning a 13-year battle that lasted from 1969 until 1982.

So, Microsoft and the EU are not exactly breaking new ground here. Whether they get anywhere obviously remains to be seen. But in an era of virtualization and cloud computing, it's nice to see the good ol' mainframe make news once in a while.

Do you still use mainframes? If so, how? Answer at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on July 28, 2010 at 11:56 AM


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