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What Can We Learn from IBM

Jul 9, 2014

Posted by

Charles Dahlheimer

Recognized as one of the industrys leading visionaries, Dahlheimer is publisher of The Real Estate Professional magazine and The Real Estate Executive Summary.  He co-authored Real Es Read more

For those of us old enough to remember typewriters, IBM once had the absolute “state of the art” with its “Correcting Selectric,” a typewriter that provided a variety of different typefaces (now called “fonts”) and had a correction ribbon that allowed the stenographer or secretary to correct a typo with the flick of a key.  (By the way, what has happened to the stenographer?) Any business office that didn’t have one was considered out of date and out of step with the times.

But IBM didn’t rest on its laurels.  Instead, it committed its resources to become one of the leaders in the “silicon age,” and its desk-top computers soon became state-of-the-art in the business workplace.

Today, the company has announced that the age of silicon may be drawing to a close.

  IBM will be spending more than $3 billion over the next half-decade to discover new ways to power the future generations of microprocessors.

“We really do see the clock ticking on silicon,” says Tom Rosamilia, Senior Vice President of IBM Systems & Technology Group. Today’s state-of-the-art IBM chips use silicon components that are already tiny — just 22 nanometers in width.  But looking about five years into the future, parts become so small that it becomes extremely difficult to maintain a reliable on or off state. “As we get into the 7 nanometer timeframe, things really begin to taper off,” Rosamilia says.  So the first step of IBM’s $3 billion quest will fund research into ways of making these smaller chip components work — even if they don’t use silicon.

Read the full story at Wired.

So what does all that have to do with the real estate business?

Since the advent of the desk-top computer, things have also changed in the real estate industry.  And many real estate companies have done very well keeping up with the trends.  But, following IBM’s lead, perhaps we need to be trying to get ahead of the trends by figuring out where the consumer will be five or ten years hence—and then crafting a real estate industry that will be ahead of the trends.

And where will the “R&D” take place? 

Certainly not in the average real estate company, where resources are already overtaxed just keeping the business afloat and profitable.  In the world of academia?  Not sure that any of our current scholarly resources are closely enough tuned to the real-world consumer marketplace to take that lead.  Under the auspices of our Realtor associations?  We have traditionally played “catch up,” taking a “reactionary” rather than a “proactive” stance with regard to consumer and marketplace trends.

Perhaps one or more of the major international companies or franchises might lead the charge?

Or perhaps none of the above.  The innovations will likely come from entirely outside traditional “real estate” resources.

  And, if so, we’ll continue to play catch-up—if, indeed, we are still on the playing field at all.