Wednesday, 25 November 2009

12 little-known facts about IBM

Few companies are as well known as the IT giant IBM. The US-based company popularly known as 'Big Blue' is the global leader in hardware, software, services and consulting space. The company has who's who of the global business world as its clients and is among the top chipmakers in the world.

But few know that IBM is also the highest patent earner, has a long list of tech inventions to its credit and makes 35 of the world's 100 most powerful supercomputers.

eWeek has compiled a list of little-known facts about IBM. Here are few from the list.

Humble beginning
IBM was founded in 1896 as Tabulating Machine Company by Herman Hollerith in New York. It was incorporated as Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation on June 16, 1911, and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1916. It became IBM in 1924 when Thomas J Watson took over.

Headquartered in Armonk, Town of North Castle, New York, the 283,000 square foot IBM building is located on a 25 acre site. With presence in more than 170 countries, IBM Global Services is among the world's largest business services provider.

Highest patent earner
In 2008, IBM became the first company to ever earn more than 4,000 US patents in a single year. According to the company, 2008's patent issuances were nearly triple that of Hewlett-Packard's and exceed the issuances of Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Apple, EMC, Accenture and Google combined.

Inorganic kitty
Since the acquisition of Lotus in 1995, the company has been on an acquisition spree. IBM has bought more than 130 companies since then. Some of the companies acquired by the Big Blue include: Mainspring Business Strategy consulting, Informix Corporation Database Software, CrossWorlds Software, Metamerge, Trellisoft, Think Dynamics, Aptrix, Daksh e-Services, Venetica, Network Solutions Pvt Ltd.

Tech edge
IBM has a long list of technologies to its credit. The list includes: magnetic stripe, UPC bar codes, floppy disks, hard disk drives, vacuum tape drives, relational databases, Random Access Memory, RAMAC, the world's first computer disk storage system. IBM introduced the first computerised golf scoreboard at the 1967 Greater Dallas Open.

With over 4 lakh employees worldwide, IBM is among the largest IT employer in the world. The company also boasts of a high number of senior women employees. According to reports, the company employs more than 1,000 senior women executives from mere 185 in 1997. Also, 65 per cent of IBM’s women executives are working mothers. More than 130,000 IBM employees and retirees are registered with the company's global volunteer programme called 'On Demand Community'.

Powers gaming giants
IBM provides processor chips that power world's top gaming giants, including Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Xbox 360. In May 1997, Deep Blue (chess computer), a chess-playing computer developed by IBM created history by defeating world champion Garry Kasparov.

Global banks use IBM's mainframe
IBM's mainframe, the company's line of business computers, continues to be the choice of almost all top banks in the world. IBM in the first quarter of 2009, announced that its System Z mainframe business grew 37% in emerging markets such as China and India.

Nobel winners
Five IBMers have won Nobel Prizes for physics. Their names include Leo Esaki (1973), Gerd K Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer (1986), J Georg Bednorz and K Alex Mller (1987),

In addition to Nobel prizes, IBM researchers have been recognised with seven US National Medals of Technology, five National Medals of Science and 21 memberships in the National Academy of Sciences.

Supercomputer leader
According to TOP500 list of Supercomputers, IBM is a provider of 35 of the world's 100 most powerful supercomputers. Till recently, IBM's supercomputer Roadrunner held the top spot on the list of the World's top 10 fastest supercomputers.

However, according to the recent ranking, the world's fastest supercomputer is Cray XT5, also known as Jaguar. Jaguar bags the no. 1 spot, beating IBM's Roadrunner, which has been holding the top crown since past 18 months.

IBM's 3D avatar
In 2007, IBM researchers in Switzerland unveiled details of prototype visualization software that let doctors view medical data of patients using a 3D avatar of the human body. The Anatomic and Symbolic Mapper Engine (ASME) provides an interactive 3D model of the human body that displays health information at a glance. This helps doctors to visualise the medical history of their patients.

The company is also credited for playing a key role in developing the heart lung machine, for having invented the first continuous blood separator which is used to treat leukemia patients, and has helped develop the field of relaxometry which plays a role in medical magnetic resonance imagery (MRI).

Smart toll project
The company is credited for implementing a project that brought down traffic emission in Stockholm and channelised traffic movement. IBM worked with the City of Stockholm, Sweden to implement a smart toll systems to reduce gridlock, lower emissions and save the city’s residents time and money.

The system reduced traffic by 25%, and the city saw a drop in emissions from road traffic up to 14%. Greenhouse gases have fallen 40% in the inner city.


IBM announced its third-quarter 2009 net income was $3.2 billion compared with $2.8 billion in the third quarter of 2008, an increase of 14%. Total revenues for the third quarter of 2009 was $23.6 billion, 1% up from the second quarter of 2009. IBM ended the third quarter of 2009 with $11.5 billion of cash on hand and generated free cash flow of $3.4 billion, excluding Global Financing receivables.

At the end of 2008, IBM recorded $103.6 billion in revenue, $12.3 billion net income and $109.5 billion total assets.