Why the surprise?

Murchnick looked like he was on the verge of tears, sitting in the Old Man's office. "Half of them!" he moaned. "Half of our suppliers will be gone in three years. Out of business. Kaput." "I was in Orlando, Murch," said the Old Man calmly. "I heard the speech. But what are you worried about?"

"What are we going to do without Microsoft?" Murchnick said. "Or IBM or Dell or Oracle or SAP or Siebel? Or are you telling me this analyst brain trust is all wrong?"

"Oh, no," the Old Man said, leaning back in his chair. "I think they're probably right."

"What?" said Murchnick, his face reddening.

"They're right," the Old Man repeated. "Half of our big-name vendors will be merged or go bankrupt. Why not? We've pulled the plug on a lot of projects, and so has everyone else I've talked to. If we stop buying, that will put some vendors out of business. It's unpleasant, but it happens."

"But," said Murchnick, "how can you just sit there? This is terrible! Nothing like this has ever happened. If half our suppliers are gone . . . ""Murch, do you remember Baan?" The Old Man said as he sat forward and tapped on his keyboard.

"Sure," Murchnick said. "They did that ERP demo for us last year. They're still in business, aren't they?"

"Yes, but only because they were bought out," the Old Man said. "You probably don't remember Boole & Babbage we had some of their mainframe software. They were bought out, too. And Comdisco . . ."

"They're still in business," said Murchnick. "They were all over the news in September."

"They've been bankrupt since July," said the Old Man. "And you know Compaq bought Digital Equipment. And remember all those Hayes modems we used to give your salespeople to work from home? Bankrupt.

"IBM bought Informix. America Online bought Netscape. Symantec bought Quarterdeck you remember them, you talked me into using their PC memory manager," the Old Man continued. "SCO was a Unix software vendor. Sequent made big Unix boxes with lots of processors. SSA made us a proposal for that same ERP project Baan didn't get."

"So?" Murchnick said.

"They're all gone," said the Old Man. "Bought out, mostly." He tapped the keyboard a few more times. "And SyQuest they made those removable drives we ended up replacing with Zips. And Wang. Those are the ones I figured you'd recognize. They're all household names in IT, aren't they?"

"What are you looking at, anyhow?" said Murchnick.

"It's my old Rolodex," said the Old Man. "I haven't touched it since I got my Palm Pilot three years ago, so it's badly out of date. These were all big names in IT three years ago or so, Murch. Now they're all merged or bankrupt, just like the man said. And that isn't even counting all the telecom mergers MCI and Sprint and GTE and Ameritech and US West. In one office or another, we had phone service with all of them. But not anymore."

"So . . ."

"So if we lost that many in the past three years, why wouldn't we expect to lose just as many in the next three?" the Old Man said.

"So," Murchnick said, "you're telling me there really isn't anything to worry about?"

"I'm telling you we've always got contingency plans, Murch," the Old Man said. "We have to, the way vendors come and go. In fact, there's only one thing that worries me about all those vendors that will merge or go under."

"What's that?" Murchnick asked.

"That anyone will be surprised."

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