Metcalfe: Two Trillion Reasons that I.T. Matters

Via Slashdot, I just read Bob Metcalfe’s (Mr Ethernet) June 2004 piece ripping Carr’s Harvard Business Review article “IT Doesn’t Matter”  to shreds. Here are some of the highlights of Meclafe’s rebuttal:

“I asked how much IT matters of
Frank Gens, senior vice president for the information technology market
research giant IDC. (Full disclosure: IDC is owned by IDG, on whose
board I serve.) IDC reports that the global investment in information
technology (including telecommunications) totaled $1.9 trillion in 2003
and, despite Carr, will climb to $2.0 trillion in 2004.”


“Carr concludes that since
information technology no longer provides a competitive advantage to
businesses, they should stop spending wildly on advanced information
technology products and services.

…As evidence, Carr points out
that my 30-year-old baby, Ethernet, has been standardized and
commoditized…It’s true that last year more than 184 million new
Ethernet ports were shipped, at a value of $12.5 billion”


“But now that the
post-Internet-bubble nuclear winter is almost over, Ethernet is
speeding up, to beyond 1,000 megabits (one gigabit) per second.
Ethernet is going into wide-area networks. It’s going wireless. It’s
going into embedded systems—the eight billion microprocessors shipped
every year that don’t go into PCs….”

Hey Bob! Don’t forget my Xbox Live!…

“Carr wrongly equates today’s information technologies with
electricity, and then he wrongly characterizes electricity as static.
In short, Carr, deep into a post-bubble depression, wrongly declares
the end of history…”


“In Carr’s reply to early critics,
published on the Web by the Harvard Business Review in June 2003, he
wrote that his article “has at least succeeded in setting off an
important and long-overdue debate about the role of information
technology in business.” I don’t think so. If anything, Carr has
succeeded only in misleading his readers….

He urges IT managers not to
venture foolishly out onto technology’s cutting edge and to buy only
that which has low risk and high value to their companies. Carr urges
this as if it were breaking news…

If business executives follow Carr’s advice, who will provide innovation’s test beds? How will new technologies find their markets?
This may be the most important reason to debunk Carr’s arguments once
and for all: if they harden into conventional business wisdom, American
ingenuity will be strangled in its bassinet.”

Oh come on Bob, let us try to broaden this out…just little…how about ‘the developed and the developing world’…?

“Carr argues that things that are
widely available, like IT, cannot be used for sustained competitive
advantage. Well, since Harvard Business Review is received by almost a
quarter-million people and can be bought by anyone with $16.95, then
according to Carr’s own argument, that publication itself doesn’t
matter. Cancel your subscription and download any interesting articles
from back issues—which any teenager will be able to find for you on the
Internet for free.”

Good points well made…and now Carr has recently published his latest rendition of the provocative meme, I’m sure there will be plenty more to come on this polarising subject.  Metcalfe’s full article is here.

Comments (3)

  1. Some other reactions to the Carr’s article:

    James Maguire, "’IT Doesn’t Matter’ – Yeah, Right"

    "IT Doesn’t Matter, Does It?", UCLA Anderson School

    Zach Evans, "IT Doesn’t Matter. Article Analysis #3"

    Nicholas Wybolt, "Some Thoughts on IT Doesn’t Matter"

    L. Rockett, "IT does Matter, if One so Wishes"

    Gerald D. Cohen, "IT Does Matter"

    "I.T. Doesn’t Matter, or Does It? How to Improve the Value and Perception of I.T.", SCSIM

    David L. Bahn, "IT Doesn’t Matter Anymore… or Does IT?"

    "Does IT Matter? An HBR Debate", Letters to the HBR Editor

  2. Anonymous says:

    University of Crete – Lecture 2: Strategy in the Information Economy