About The Book

1992 was a killing year for the four computer companies most important to business buyers over the decade. All four had been dominant suppliers of minicomputers for the preceding fifteen or twenty years. But on July 16, the CEOs of both Digital Equipment and Hewlett Packard were pushed into retirement. On August 8, Wang Laboratories declared bankruptcy. In December, IBM halved its dividend for the first time ever, forcing the resignation of its CEO a month later.

How did this happen? All four CEOs were clever and experienced. Two were founders of their companies; the other two highly successful career executives in their respective companies. All four were simply overwhelmed. And while there was no single explanation for what happened, there were definite common themes.

They recur again and again in the many stories of this book. Are the deadliest changes unavoidable because strategy is too easily thwarted by cluster bombs like technological velocity, cultural inertia, obsolete business models, executive conflict, and investor expectations? The year 1992 is the fulcrum of this book, but the underlying theme is company transitions in the face of massive changes in markets, technologies, or business models - or, in other words, the limits of strategy.


You can almost smell the fear, as the cloud revolution promises to be as disruptive as the PC revolution once was. No wonder many are turning to a timely new book, "The Limits of Strategy" by Ernest von Simson  More

What a terrific "up close and personal" observer's story! This book, built around twenty-five years of personal interviews and consequent `industry analyses' of the strategies, achievements and leadership of America's computer companies...  More

  About The Author

 ith his wife, Naomi Seligman, Ernest von Simson ran the Research Board, the quietly powerful think tank that observed, shaped, and guided the development of the computer industry. They got to know and admire the giants of those years - including Michael Dell, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Scott McNealy   Full Bio

Endorsements below, from leaders of:
  Table of Contents
  Click Through to Read Excerpts!

Wick Moorman
Norfolk Southern Railroad

The Limits of Strategy is a terrific book on two counts – first as a highly insightful romp through the history of the transformative industry of our times, written by someone with a unique perspective on how events were actually shaped; and second as a thought-provoking study of how strategic insight, management ability, corporate culture, and industry dynamics interact to determine a company’s success or failure, with lessons to be drawn whether your company is 170 days old or 170 years old.

Larry Ellison
Founder and CEO
Oracle Corporation

An insightful analysis of all the key IT companies and individuals during the formative period of the industry. This book explains the competitive interrelationships between the different companies and how the IT industry evolved as a result. The lessons in the book are vital to any CEOs managing a business regularly disrupted by new entrants, new technologies, and different business models regardless of industry.

Scott McNealy
Founder and retired CEO
Sun Microsystems

Very few people get to witness from the inside a massive new economic sector as it is formed and evolves over a quarter century while permeating all aspects of our lives. Ernie von Simson did just that, studying the computer industry, interviewing its leaders, and shaping the thinking of those of us who implemented this technology during these explosive years.

But "The Limits of Strategy" goes way beyond a faithful reconstruction of the "what happened" to discuss the many personality quirks that are often called corporate strategy and that often led to unimaginable misfortune and disaster. Ernie has insight that was not captured by the public media. This is worth reading as human nature does not change quickly.

George Conrades
Chairman Akamai
Retired SVP, IBM Corporation

Ernie von Simson has written a tour de force in his revealing insights into the corporate strategies of the dominant American and Japanese computer manufacturers during the explosion of the industry over a quarter century. From his unique vantage point as principal investigator and master strategist behind the successful, and highly respected, Research Board, Ernie offers fascinating perspective on the limits of strategy from the real life stories of the leading participants…in essence, it’s the people, stupid!

A great read in general for the lessons to be had, and for the people like me who were involved, there is plenty to learn about the other guy to make this a real page turner.

Dr. Irving Wladawsky Berger
Chairman Emeritus IBM
Academy of Technology

Ernie von Simson's "The Limits of Strategy" is a book that can be enjoyed at multiple levels. It is an excellent, detailed history of the computer industry from the 1970s to 2000, a time when the industry grew explosively and transitioned from backroom mainframes and supercomputers that few people cared about to the post-industrial, information age of the personal computer and the World Wide Web. As co-head of the Research Board, Ernie had a ringside seat to this history, as well as personal access to the people who made the history happen.

Then again "Limits of Strategy" is a superb business book on strategy, leadership and innovation. Each of its twenty chapters stands alone as a case study of how a company and its leaders reacted to turbulent times, whether it was coping with fast growth or trying to survive major technology and market changes. These case studies stimulate the mind, and provide excellent material for quite a number of graduate and executive management courses.

Finally, "Limits of Strategy" is a good read, a series of very interesting stories, full of real characters, - some of them quite well known, - and the dramas they went through in trying to navigate the turbulent waters that their companies and the IT industry in general lived through during the 25 years Ernie writes about. It is rare to find a business book that is as well written and actually fun to read as "Limits of Strategy."