The New Book by Rod Canion Open

How Compaq Ended IBM's PC Domination
and Helped Invent Modern Computing

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The story of Compaq is well-known: Three ex-Texas Instruments managers founded Compaq with modest venture funding. Just four years later, Compaq was on the Fortune 500 list, and, two years after that, they had exceeded $1 billion in annual revenue. No company had ever achieved these milestones so rapidly.

But few know the story behind the story. In 1982, when Compaq was founded, there was no software standardization, so every brand of personal computer required its own unique application software. Just eight years later, compatibility with the open PC standard had become ubiquitous, and it has continued to be for over two decades.

This didn’t happen by accident. Cofounder and then CEO Rod Canion and his team made a series of risky and daring decisions—often facing criticism and incredulity—that allowed the open PC standard marketplace to thrive and the incredible benefits of open computing to be realized.

A never-before-published insider account of Compaq’s extraordinary strategies and decisions, Open provides valuable lessons in leadership in times of crisis, management decision-making under the pressure of extraordinary growth, and the power of a unique, pervasive culture.

Open tells the incredible story of Compaq’s meteoric rise from humble beginnings to become the PC industry leader in just over a decade. Along the way, Compaq helped change the face of computing while establishing the foundation for today’s world of tablets and smart phones.

 

Praise for OPEN

“David was a lot smaller than Goliath, but his relative size paled in comparison to that of start-up Compaq Computer when it set out in 1982 to overtake personal computer giant IBM. Yet remarkably, just a decade later, Compaq had successfully toppled IBM as the world's largest PC company. In this fast-paced recounting of how the incon-ceivable became the actual, Compaq cofounder Rod Canion tells how daunting hurdles were overcome and opportunities seized. The press, the analysts, the Wall Streeters had said at the beginning it couldn't be done. Rod and his team did it. Open will take you along on this exhilarating ride through technology, innovation, and unprecedented industrial growth.”

Ben Rosen, former Chairman of Compaq

“An upstart company in Texas, with cows grazing outside its win-dows, bets its future on open standards, only to find itself battling the world's most powerful technology company for control of the per-sonal computer industry. Rod Canion reveals the back-room battles, secret alliances, and bet-the-company decisions he made as CEO of Compaq, which he guided from start-up to Fortune 500 in less than four years. Canion's process for making executive decisions will be of interest to managers in any competitive industry.”

Peter H. Lewis, former senior writer and technology columnist, The New York Times

“Compaq's early business decisions changed the course of personal computing. This is a detailed, inside look at those high-risk, high-reward calls by the executive who made them and holds important lessons for competitive strategy.”

Richard Shaffer, former technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal,  Forbes, and Fortune

“Few technical arcana put laymen to sleep faster than a discussion of industry standards, even though winning and losing in technical busi-ness often depend on them.  Canion's description of the human side of cobbling together what's needed to create one of these standards is correct—and a good read, too.” 

Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel

“Open is a fascinating insider account of how the once IBM-dominated proprietary computer industry was transformed into one of open standards in the late 1980s and early 1990s as upstart startup Compaq, with a little help from Intel and Microsoft, decisively defeated IBM on Big Blue's own turf. IBM's crushing defeat in the PC market set a crucial precedent for the replacement of traditional proprietary archi-tectures with open standards for systems, networking, and software platforms across the information industry.

 

It is always tempting, looking back at history, to assume the inevi-tability of whatever actually happened. Canion's inside account the founding of Compaq, its success, and its crucial role in the ultimate victory over IBM in defining an industry standard PC architecture makes it clear that the outcome would have been very different, but for crucial (and often risky) choices by Compaq.

Had Canion and his colleagues at Compaq been less bold (or executed less well), the shape of the information industry today might be radi-cally different; still be dominated by traditional proprietary players like IBM and AT&T. In crushing IBM's attempt to lock back up the PC market with proprietary architectures, Compaq tumbled the first of a series of dominoes that opened the way to today's still vibrant and growing markets built on quality and innovation around open stan-dards. Open is also, however, a valuable account of one of the most successful startup companies of the early 1980s with important les-sons for startup companies today. This book is a must-read for any-one seriously interested in innovation, investment in startups, or the information industry.”

William F. Zachmann, Computer and Communications Industry Analyst and former senior VP of Market Research at International Data Corp.