Mostly through coincidence and accidental synergy, IBM created an ultra-low-risk product that launched a massive transformation, and the personal computer became a mainstream appliance. Intangible attributes in all three sections of the Low Risk Recipe allowed PC adoption to soar.
When IBM sponsored development of the “IBM compatible PC” along with its clone architecture, the foundation for safety and predictability in personal computing was established.
End-user harmony was provided through the availability and delivery of complete solutions including an operating system, hardware, peripherals, application software and extensive documentation. Familiar retail stores such as Sears allowed prospective customers to test drive and explore PCs before purchase. Along with Sears, computer-specialty stores such as Computerland and Computer City were chosen to introduce the IBM PC.
Even with a complete product offering and familiar distribution channels, the cooperation between vendors in the PC category was even more transformative. Because the IBM PC was built from commercially available, off-the-shelf parts, all other PC vendors had full and open access to IBM’s design. So, the entire industry organized itself around the IBM-compatible hardware standard. IBM PC “clones” included a standardized ATX/AT form factor, a basic input-output system (BIOS) and an ISA/EISA bus standard. When PC manufacturers adopted this standardized configuration, it eliminated the potential risk of “vendor lock-in,” and full-scale mainstream adoption followed. A virtually unlimited supply of how-to books and manuals were available to support application software such as Wordstar, Lotus 1-2-3 and Ashton Tate DBASE .
One of the risk-lowering mechanisms included in the PC clone standard was the implied compatibility with the world of computing, which was made possible by IBM’s participation and sponsorship. The availability of a standardized product, and hundreds of complimentary add-ons along with the sponsorship of the most dominant name in computing allowed PC adoption to skyrocket.
Last but not least, attributes providing Safety in Numbers included the availability of independently-produced anti-virus software, as well as independent service providers and consultants. But the greatest impact came from the plethora of user groups that self-organized to provide an independent source of information and support for users of all kinds