Written by David Tebbutt, PC Dealer 05/88 item 01 - scanned

Time to fight back against US domination

In a recent Daily Mail eulogy to Margaret Thatcher, I was astonished to learn that ours is now a 'wealth creating country'.

Perhaps working in the computer industry has given me a distorted view of our commercial realities. Or perhaps the Daily Mail and Margaret Thatcher have a different understanding of 'wealth creating'. To me, the only valid meaning is that we should earn more than we spend.

If the rest of Britain carried on like the computer industry does, then it is only a matter of time before we ask to become the 52nd State of the US. We'd gain much from such an arrangement, especially from the access to a huge domestic market. The US would gain less commercially, since it already has massive control of our computer industry.

OK, I admit that the more successful companies set up UK-staffed local offices. IBM even gets awards for export achievement and knighthoods for its chief executives. However, the control of companies like IBM still rests overseas.

I know the Americans don't seem very foreign. They speak roughly the same language. They share similar values and we get on quite well. Yet this 'foreign' country dominates the UK computer industry and that can't be good for us.

We can pretend that this state of affairs is acceptable until the US operations hit hard times. Then, no doubt, the US will squeeze as much profit as possible out of the UK to help support its domestic businesses. Then we'll see how 'British' these overseas subsidiaries really are.

When a US product is superior to anything we can offer, we shouldn't complain. One of the reasons we have taken so many US products to our hearts is because they beat the socks off our own offerings.

What I find really distasteful, though, is to see a Brit exhorting his fellow countrymen to buy foreign goods when he could be putting the same energy, and earning the same profit, from promoting British products of superior quality and value.

What the Americans like, after they've tackled the home market, is the bunce which comes from international trade. They can grow fat on the domestic trade alone. But we are in a different position. It is difficult for UK software and hardware developers to make the big time unless they capture substantial overseas markets.

The US is the natural one for us to go for. Unfortunately we can't tackle that market unless we first have enough business in the UK to guarantee future product development and the funding of the US operation.

Dealers and VARs each have a responsibility to consider whether the UK offers viable alternatives to the products we sell. Why not Research Machines, or Amstrad, or Blyth, or Torus? We've accepted the US' self-appointed leadership with hardly a murmur. In many cases, we've actually encouraged it.

The tide can be turned. Maybe, with the advent of Unix and OS/ 2, we will have the opportunity to make our mark in the software business. We blew it with CP/M and MS-DOS, but we have another chance with these two operating systems.

Are we, once again, going to allow the US to dictate which of their domestic products will dominate? Or will we fight for a fair share of our own market?

In the boxshifting days, dealers had to stock what the customer asked for but, as computer systems become more complex, customers need sound advice. There's no reason why that advice shouldn't include recommendations for good British products.

Only with your support and cooperation can the indigenous computer industry grow and prosper and earn itself the base of business it needs to expand into overseas markets. The alternative is more of what we see now - virtual ownership of the British computer industry by foreign companies.