Design Rules Volume 2: Chapter 15—The IBM PC

28 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2019 Last revised: 15 Mar 2022

Date Written: July 18, 2021


The IBM PC was the first digital computer platform that was open by as a matter of strategy, not necessity. The purpose of this chapter is to understand the IBM PC as a technical system and set of organization choices in light of the theory of how technology shapes organizations. In Chapter 7, I argued that sponsors of large technical systems (including platform systems) must manage the modular structure of the system and property rights in a way that solves four inter-related problems:

• Provide all essential functional components;
• Solve system-wide technical bottlenecks wherever they emerge;
• Control and protect one or more strategic bottleneck; and
• Prevent others from gaining control of any system-wide strategic bottleneck.

I use this framework to understand how IBM initially succeeded with the PC platform and then lost its position as platform sponsor in the industry it had created.

Keywords: Technology, Organizations, Modularity

JEL Classification: L1,L2,O3

Suggested Citation

Baldwin, Carliss Y., Design Rules Volume 2: Chapter 15—The IBM PC (July 18, 2021). Design Rules Volume 2: How Technology Shapes Organizations, Available at SSRN: or

Carliss Y. Baldwin (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

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