Computer Industry, wide range of activities based on the manufacture and use of computers to satisfy business or personal needs. This involves the design and construction of hardware (computers plus peripherals such as printers), the specification and coding of applications programs (software), and the running or execution of programs, often by trained operators. Computers now range from pocket-size electronic organizers to powerful business systems—for example, airline reservation systems—that fill large halls, and hundreds of thousands of programs are available to run on them.
The computer industry is based on the electronics industry, which manufactures integrated circuits (silicon chips) and other parts. It overlaps with other industries such as consumer electronics, office systems, and telecommunications, so it is difficult to put a value on it separately. An analysis by the Massachusetts-based International Data Corporation put overall worldwide spending on computer products and services at about US$700 billion in 1996. The industry has been growing at 12 to 16 per cent per year by value, but because computer prices are falling, the growth in unit sales—and the number of users—has sometimes been greater than this suggests.
The American company International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) has dominated the computer industry since the end of the 1950s, and although it lost market share in the 1990s, it is still by far the largest supplier. It is involved in every aspect of the business, from chip manufacture and software development to managing and providing financing for other companies’ computer facilities. In 2000 IBM’s annual turnover reached US$88.4 billion. However, smaller firms such as Intel and Microsoft Corporation have recently become more influential, because of their contributions to the fast-growing personal computer (PC) sector.