December 23, 2006

An Interesting Look at Xerox Management's Missed Market Opportunities (PC's, the GUI, Networking)

Stephen Miller:
Peter McColough never powered up a personal computer, but he helped unleash the digital revolution.

Many of the technologies at the center of today's computerized offices and homes -- the mouse, the laser printer, the local area network -- were first developed in the 1970s at a Silicon Valley skunk works he chartered at Xerox Corp.

But Xerox never reached Mr. McColough's goal of being at the forefront of what he called "the architecture of information." The company still best known for copiers pioneered in the 1950s and '60s failed to develop many of the technologies into marketable products. Instead, a herd of start-ups, often headed by the very workers at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Campus who had invented them, rumbled in and created industries in personal computers, networking, office software and others.

"If Xerox had known what it had and had taken advantage of its real opportunities, it could have been as big as IBM plus Microsoft plus Xerox combined -- and the largest high-technology company in the world," Apple Computer Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs is quoted as saying in "Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox," a book by Charles Ellis about the company and its early chief executive.

The reasons for Xerox's inability to take advantage of its own inventions are debated in business schools to this day. Jacob Goldman, Xerox's chief scientist at the time who founded PARC, blames short-sighted managers unwilling to take chances on small-scale, unproven technologies. "They managed the company quarter to quarter and looked at the bottom line," Mr. Goldman says. "They weren't thinking about the future really."
Posted by James Zellmer at December 23, 2006 8:10 AM | Subscribe to this site via RSS:
Posted to Entrepreneurs | Technology