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The 3Com Saga 258

prostoalex writes "A flashback to 5 years ago reveals 3Com as a global multi-billion dollar company, respected and revered around the world. Today Bob Metcalfe's creation is a money-losing $2 billion dollar operation trying to find its niche. The 3Com Saga from Network World magazine takes a look at the history of 3Com Corp."
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The 3Com Saga

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  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bilestoad ( 60385 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @09:55PM (#9293377)
    Why would you buy a network card when nearly every mainboard has one built-in? And even the chipsets are losing to Intel...
    • Re:Simple (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Are you being sarcastic? Most built-in ethernet controllers use 3com chipsets, and all that's done for me is make my life a LOT easier to deal with, because you only have to really worry about 3 chipsets after that: a builtin 3com, a builtin intel (though they seem to be appearing less and less frequently now) and maybe the tulip driver for netgears for 3-4 year old PCs.
      • Re:Simple (Score:3, Informative)

        Are you being sarcastic? Most built-in ethernet controllers use 3com chipsets, and all that's done for me is make my life a LOT easier to deal with, because you only have to really worry about 3 chipsets after that: a builtin 3com, a builtin intel (though they seem to be appearing less and less frequently now) and maybe the tulip driver for netgears for 3-4 year old PCs.

        Don't forget the Realtek chips - 90% of the motherboards I've bought have them built in.
        • That's right - you can trust the crab. The realtek 8139 is one of the most rock solid chipsets I've ever seen, and they're dirt cheap and supported by everything.
          • The Realtek chips might do OK for light loads like web browsing, but try transferring large amounts of data with them. What's the point of a 100 Mbps full-duplex connection when the chip craps out (often crashing the machine)? Go read the Beowulf guys' recommendations. Dirt cheap is right -- you get what you pay for.
      • Re:Simple (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday ( 582209 )
        Most built-in ethernet controllers use 3com chipsets
        Yeah, chipsets that they sell to motherboard manufacturers about 50 cents. That's not a business that supports what 3COM is/was.
    • Simple-Add ons. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "Why would you buy a network card when nearly every mainboard has one built-in? And even the chipsets are losing to Intel..."

      Because the add-on can do things that the built-in can't e.g. hardware cryptography (VPN, RIAA, hint, hint).
    • Re:Simple (Score:2, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      Yeah, it seems like it was only within the last year that an x86 motherboard had the "priviledge" of having a 3Com network chip on it. The reviewers remarked that previously 3Com chips were only available as an add-on 3Com branded card such as a PCI card.

      Every computer I've bought in the last eight years had a network card built into the mainboard. I guess they were out of the running for my systems by default. Any time I needed a supplementary card or one to put in someone else's system, I had no famil
      • Re:Simple (Score:4, Interesting)

        by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @11:24PM (#9293808) Journal
        Typically an onboard chip/network card will use more proccesor and memory resources then a regular add in card, while the performance will vary, I have noticed that 3com's 3c905 series will off load the most and will be the fastest with the least amount of extra resource draw.

        Most people won't even think twice about using an onboard nic. I don't really blame them. but in a windows 2000 domain with active directory switching nics from a built in 3com to an add on 3com had users thinking they got a new workstation. The speed difference was especially noticed when using aplications that reside on the server and have to check back in everytime data is changed or needed.

        Just somethign to think about when using the on board nics. If a little extra performance would be nice or needed.
        • Re:Simple (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
          What are good ways to test this difference? I don't use active directory.

          Switching to a PCI card is relatively trivial, I already have several spare cards. The problem is I've never personally really run into a case where the on-board chip made a noticible impact. I had in the past been using Alpha systems with TULIP chips on board, I would presume that DEC did a good job setting those up. Currently my main systems are XEON based, so they simply might be better engineered, i.e., the design of such syst
        • Re:Simple (Score:3, Informative)

          by Paul Jakma ( 2677 )
          Typically an onboard chip/network card will use more proccesor and memory resources then a regular add in card

          This is absolute bull. Whether a PCI ASIC is built-in to motherboard or on an add-in card makes 0 difference to performance.
        • Re:Simple (Score:4, Interesting)

          by UserChrisCanter4 ( 464072 ) * on Monday May 31, 2004 @01:09AM (#9294290)
          One thing to consider in this, though, are the newer crop of GigE cards that are integrated in the northbridge. Intel and Nvidia's newer chipsets are shipping with these sorts of chips, as they start to realize the same thing Apple did a while back: GigE plus anything disk intensive can and will max out a traditional 32-bit 33mhz PCI Bus. I dig 3Com products as much as the next guy, but I'll be damned if they could produce a worthwhile Northbridge assembly.

          As a side note, their cards are also ridiculously expensive compared to the stuff that a lot of other manufacturers offer, and as has already been pointed out, the other stuff is sufficient for 98% of the jobs.
      • 3Com once said... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by yukio ( 457122 )
        ....that their biggest enemy was Intel.

        They were right, as Intel went and built their own NICs into Intel-branded boards and took away a huge add-in market. The problem's even more obvuious in the notebook market where there are Centrino solutions from Intel, and other third-party wireless solutions - but nothing from 3Com.

        Then again, who can blame them?

        Now even the tethered Ethernet chipsets are too commoditized for Intel to be using their own in the D875PBZ series mobos.

        Not that 3Com's been especiall
    • Why buy cards? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      There are many situations where I need more than one card. Onboard NICs, especially when they're Realtek, are terribly unreliable as well (the failure rate for onboard Realtek I've dealt with may be as high as 1 in 4). As much as you'd like onboard Intel, don't count on it in most boards when a manufacturer can save $3.

      3Com's problem? Go find their product on a big box store shelf. IF they have it (most won't carry it - it simply won't sell and shelf space commands a premium), it's $59-$79 per unit, compar
    • Re:Simple (Score:3, Informative)

      Why would you buy a network card when nearly every mainboard has one built-in?

      Maybe because their onboard LAN ports suck. I know mine does. You know what the MAC address of my SiS onboard Ethernet was? 00-00-00-00-00-00. Man, SiS is pathetic. I'm not entirely sure what the chipset is tho (the onboard sound has an Intel chipset, so that could also be true for the Ethernet). Why? Because I've had it disabled in the BIOS for months. As soon as I saw the bogus MAC address, I ran out and bought a Realtek car
  • Reap what you sow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nounderscores ( 246517 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @09:56PM (#9293382)
    If you outsource critical functions like R&D and to a lesser extent manufacturing innovation, you will lose your business edge. All your good engineers end up at the parts companies you contract to, and their precious IP will not be yours.
    • *cough* Dell *cough*
      • critical functions (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nounderscores ( 246517 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:10PM (#9293461)
        Dell's critical functions are marketing and logistics. Their marketing gurus and logistics engineers are very much their own. Dell is not a "technology" company per se.

        3Com was a true technology company because they designed and fabbed their own chips off the sweat of their 300 engineers. Now they have 900 mercinaries who are not loyal to them in any way, and the patents on their work are no longer assets that they can use to protect their bottm line with.

        Accounting conservatism at the expense of innovation is hurting 3Com. Let's hope that they find their courage soon. The are not a financial company or a holding group. 3Com was born in tech, and will die if it strays too far away.
        • Dell's critical functions are marketing and logistics. Their marketing gurus and logistics engineers are very much their own. Dell is not a "technology" company per se.
          If their marketing gurus are good enough to be worthy of comment, why to I always have to deal with someone clueless whenever I want to order a Dell PC?
    • Bingo. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:08PM (#9293450)
      Try buying a phone for their NBX series.

      $500 for a phone. Oh, actually, the phone is only $299. But you have to buy a license for the phone, which costs $200.

      Have one of their old phones die (out of warranty) and need to replace it? $500. "But it should only be $299, because they must already have a license for the old one, right?" Nope, sorry. New phone requires a new 'license'.

      3Com can rot in hell for all I care.
      • Re:Bingo. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:32PM (#9293594)
        Sounds a lot like what happens if you scratch a DVD or CD.
      • Re:Bingo. (Score:5, Informative)

        by somoney ( 694541 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @11:27PM (#9293821) Journal
        I agree. Try getting a switch replaced under warranty. Their response "You ship your switch in and you'll get a new one in about 20 days". Good way to make people want to buy more of your product. I can't stand 3com. Dell had me a new switch, it was around the same size/warranty status, for another client in 5 hours. That was impressive. Even HP has a lifetime warranty and will get you a switch out overnight.
      • Re:Bingo. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by thogard ( 43403 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @12:33AM (#9294130) Homepage
        Their "Open" phone system that uses the H3 protocol which is published just where??? (rumor is at MIT -- anyone want to hunt for it?)

        It also seems that all the version of the NBX software up to 4.1.21 have GPL code in them and you can prove it by just asking it [abnormal.com]. To upgrade to a version where 3com isn't illegally using GPLed code, you have to buy another license. Keep in mind that 3com was one of the few IT compaines that supported the DMCA. Maybe its because the DMCA helps hide the fact they are using open source software without following the terms of its licenses. Details are here. [abnormal.com]

        One other nice thing about their new license scam is once your dealer goes under, your out of luck and when 3com can't find the prior license, you get to rebuy all them all over again. Too bad the best source for info on it NBX Group [nbxgroup.com] has given up on the product and is bailing out.
    • Paying other companies to develop products for you to put your name on... this is a business model that can be duplicated by any business that has (or can raise) the money.

      It sort of reminds me of paying people to build buildings for you to put your name on... If they took it one step further and used other people's money, they could be the Donald Trump of electronics.

      • Re:Reap what you sow (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nounderscores ( 246517 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:12PM (#9293481)
        Good point, but once they do they will cease to be 3Com, and would more accurately be called "Faceless Holding Group Company of No Discernable Character".

        At that point you are right - anybody with a finance degree and a bit of capital can and will compete with them. And probably win.

        3Com was a tech company once, but now it is losing its identity.
        • by BeerSlurpy ( 185482 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @11:49PM (#9293916)
          3COM is already basically the US arm of HuaWei Electronics in China. All of the R&D has left the company, so has the manufacturing, etc. All that is left is a brand name and a trademarked logo, some IP and some bean counters.

          I exaggerate, but only slightly. 3COM isnt dead, but it isnt really a company in the sense of the word that Cisco is.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2004 @11:24PM (#9293809)

      Posting as AC for job protection ...

      I work for NCR, a technology company that is a century plus old.

      Some founders of other big shot companies learned all the tricks in the school of this company, like Watson, who later founded IBM .

      NCR was always a conservative styled company, focussed on profit and not growth.

      Despite that, we had our share of innovation. NCR invented the now ubiquitous SCSI standard. It also invented the first commercially available 32-bit processor.

      Because they are conservative, they never broke into markets they had products for earlier than anyone else. The 32-bit processor ended up powering minis and mainframes made by NCR, and another company in the UK, and that is it.

      NCR used to make disks and storage arrays, printers, microelectronics, and much more.

      After the AT&T merger in the early 1990s, the old guard management was replaced and a clown by the name of Jerre Stead was brought in. He was more like a TV evangelist than a CEO, and left the company in ruins.

      Jerre sold off the storage business (later to become Symbios and now LSI Logic), the microelectronics, and the printers.

      After the trivestiture (AT&T spinning off Lucent and NCR), a Swedish guy by the name of Lars Nyberg was brought in. He announced that NCR was exiting the PC business, then later the server business, then we stopped making computers altogether.

      The whole dot com era just passed us by, with nothing affecting us positively.

      I think the idea was to make us attractive by being profitable, so someone will buy us. However, this did not pan out.

      We are not losing money, but I doubt that we will survive for much longer. There are no new products being designed, no R&D spending, outsourcing to India is the name of the game.

      This down spiral happened to other companies. For example Sperry Univac became Unisys, and now they are not really into computers. Data General, Bull, Bouroughs, DEC, ...etc. All these companies just ceased to exist.

      NCR will cease to exist soon in my opinion.

      It really hurts to see a company going down like this from its former greatness.

      • "Posting as AC for job protection ..."

        It didn't work. You're fired.
      • by zerocool^ ( 112121 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @07:15AM (#9295331) Homepage Journal
        My father in law works for Unisys.

        Unisys' real strength at this point is that they employ smart people at the consulting level. They don't really innovate. However, they are a big name in the business, and when you need a solution to a problem and you want it done yesterday, regardless of the cost, you call Unisys. They can move the technological earth for you.

        Amusing anecdote.

        A couple of years ago, when my not-yet-then father in law was working his way up the consulting chain, he ended up being the go-to guy for MBNA's head office. If you don't know who they are, someday look at where your credit card offers come from in the mail - chances are 1 of 3 comes from Wilmington, Deleware. That's MBNA - they are the elite of the super-rich credit card companies.
        So anyway, MBNA used to use Sprint for their internet connection. And we're talking massive bandwidth - this is for credit card processing, so it's multiple fiber pipes, OC-3 size each, if not bigger - and they have to be up 5 nines percent or better. So, this is a multi-hundred-million dollar contract with Sprint.

        So, one day, MBNA's connection goes down. And they're losing money, to the tune of something like ten thousand dollars a second. My father in law, who's name is Mike, is called in. They're on the phone with sprint, and nothing's happening - sprint promises to look into the problem and do line testing, and call them back within 24 hours. This is obviously unacceptable. Everyone's running around, mass chaos, cats sleeping with dogs, etc. The scenario ends with the C.E.O., the VP of something, and Mike, and a few more underlings of both MBNA and Unisys in a confrence room. The CEO has the VP call sprint, and work his way up to talking to the highest guy he can get ahold of in their tech department. He asks how long it will be, gets an answer, and hangs up the phone. He looks at the CEO and says, "They say it will be 12 hours".

        The CEO looks at Mike, and says, "Switch it to AT&T."

        Mike calls AT&T (through Unisys channels - and when Unisys calls, people listen). AT&T has locals there in 10 minutes, and people on planes from New York in 20. They move heaven and earth have it up and running in 2 hours.

        Anyway, all that is to say, Unisys isn't dead - they've just shifted into a different market - being the power behind the consulting. From what I've seen, though, they (and a lot of other companies out there) tend to hire people, use them for a few years, and let them go before they get too many raises.

      • NCR Invented SCSI? (Score:3, Informative)

        by ratboy666 ( 104074 )
        SCSI was just a rework of SASI (and, in the very early days, they were compatible). And SASI was...

        (drum role)

        Shugart Associates Standard Interface

        And, at the time, Shugart didn't have shit to do with NCR. Al Shugart started with IBM, and founded Shugart in 1973. He founded Seagate in '79.

        Shugart teamed up with NCR in, what, 1981 to have ANSI standardized the interface, renaming it to SCSI.

        But the "invention" belongs to Shugart, and not NCR.

      • More relevant to the audience here at Slashdot are these facts:

        - NCR had UNIX based systems starting about 1982. They were called NCR TOWER. First they were based on Motorola 68010, then 20/30/40. These ran UNIX V.2, then V.3.

        - Later (1990) NCR announced that it is moving to all Intel based UNIX systems with the System 3000. This was UNIX SVR4.

        - These system were based on Microchannel (MCA), and NCR got the right to use MCA from IBM by a technology swap: NCR gets to use MCA and IBM gets to use SCSI.

    • Typically innovative companies are lead by their founders. Technical people who understand the value of investment. When they become large, the bean counters move in and the technical leaders are replaced with accountants or sales people who try to justify their position by generating short term profits at the expense of long term viability.

      It takes a few years after the change in leadership has happened but if you're a techie at a company who's technical leadership has bailed or been pushed and you have a
  • Dialup? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ryan.Merrill ( 548437 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @09:57PM (#9293388)
    Simple. People stopped using dialup and 3Com couldn't keep up in the NIC card market. But seriously, 3Com used to make some very high quality modems when I first started getting into the internet.
    • Re:Dialup? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by secolactico ( 519805 ) * on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:09PM (#9293457) Journal
      Simple. People stopped using dialup and 3Com couldn't keep up in the NIC card market

      Are you kidding? People have not stopped using dialup at all. Yes, broadband is accesible to more people today, but there are *lots* of people still accessing the internet via plain old telephone system.

      The problem is, many of today's mainboards come with integrated modem, usually by the same manufacturer of the sound card and probably the network card.

      US Robotics used to make damn fine sturdy modems (I had one that could withstand the most horrid lines at a reasonable speed. You could accidentally lift an extension and the modem would carry on).

      The Total Control line of NAS was also fine (even if their Total Switches were lock prone), then they suddenly waned out of the market for some reason.

      The spin-off mania didn't help them, IMHO.
      • Modem use (Score:3, Interesting)

        by grahamsz ( 150076 )
        Almost anyone that is still using dialup is either

        1) lacking any other options
        2) doesn't give a flying monkey about the performance of their modem

        Group 2 will be entirely happy with their motherboards soft-modem which negates a lot of the demand for real ones.
  • by lostchicken ( 226656 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @09:59PM (#9293401)
    The home network was really made practical by the invention of the home router. It used to be that I wouldn't buy anything but a 3COM NIC. They were simply the best. They just worked, every time. You'd buy 3com switches whenever Cisco was too much. Then came DSL and cable, and with it, the Linksys Cable/DSL router. People could share their internet connections very, very easily, and now there was a market for home users to have some pretty serious network equipment. I trust that little Linksys box now, and will buy their NICs, and their switches, and whatever else they make, because that little box does the same thing as an expensive 3com router and switch, just on a smaller scale.

    If 3com made something easier and cheaper than Linksys's device, they'd still be in the game. However, Linksys and others have proven themselves worthy in the home, and this causes network administrators to buy their equipment for work.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:12PM (#9293475)
      As much as I have to agree with you, I now regret my Linksys purchases. I should have gone with D-Link or Netgear.

      I've had to stop using Linksys cards in all my Windows machines because the poor drivers would bluescreen *every* time I ran a particular class of network-intensive application (ie: P2P stuff like BitTorrent). FreeBSD is quite happy with the hardware (higher quality drivers?), but suffice to say that the quality of Linksys' own drivers is very, very poor.

      And the little Linksys router I've had for a while locks up after running for a couple of days in full DHCP mode - it's fine with a manual IP configuration, but that's not exactly convenient so I'm about to replace it with a D-Link router if the latest BIOS update doesn't fix the problem.
      • Yep, the linksys routers are crap, but Netgear is crap to, stick with D-link. I have a netgear and a linksys, I have to reset the netgear daily, and the linksys once a week... so I choose the linksys, but its still silly.
        • D-Link is crap, too (maybe I'm just bitter because a D-Link NIC fried three separate PCI slots on me). Don't kid yourself. They're cheap parts made cheaply. They may work fine if you don't stress them too much, but as soon as you put a load on them (much like P2P filesharing apps do), they will start malfunctioning.

          One thing I have noticed about the low-end gateway routers is that the older products are almost always more reliable than the newer ones. I have an old Netgear RT314 that I'm sure still wor

          • I've found overall, that they're all crap.

            Disclaimer: I work for a Taiwanese manufacturer, who OEMs for some smaller customers, but we use the same code/board designs as some of the bigger names, depending on the product. At our American office, I've had the pleasure of running QA tests on our own products, and some of the competitors' products.

            They're all designed by one of a few companies, they're all assembled by one of a few companies, and they all use cheap, crappy parts, and (mostly) poor code.

            • The router issues everyone in this thread is talking about sound familiar to me. In my case, it was being caused by the cable co. (Cox) renewing my DHCP lease at random intervals. Usually it would take the router a few minutes, but sometimes up to an hour, for it to figure it out.

              Once, it was down for several hours and I found the router (a linksys) had reset its settings (including username and password to admin/default). Another admin suggested this was done actively and remotely.

              I do know Cox is anti-r
        • I say they're ALL crap. Too quick to market with new features. We've owned three Linksys routers, one D-Link, and one NetGear.

          Linksys - One of the routers died after a month, one of them died after two years. The other is still working after 3 years. Not a very good success rate if you ask me, and I wasn't all that impressed with the feature set anyway.

          D-Link - Quite a bit better than the Linksys crap, and the built-in printer server rocked - even worked with Linux (no driver required). However, one
    • It used to be that I wouldn't buy anything but a 3COM NIC. They were simply the best.

      That used to be my attitude, but I got burned badly by $70 NICs that were unreliable, and failed in astonishing numbers. I then switched to those based on Intel 8255x chipsets. I haven't been disappointed. 3com overpriced, and they got burned in the marketplace.
    • On that note, I'd like to add more of the blame to the rise of integrated networking on just about every motherboard these days. Whereas before, when I would always go with an Intel or 3Com NIC, these days the integrated NICs on most motherboards(specifically Nvidia nForce and Intel based boards) work almost just as well as a 3Com solution, complete with the low CPU overhead(the only loss is a couple of truely Pro features), but it's already there, and it's free.

      I can hook up my integrated NIC to my well-p
    • 3com used to be a named. Over the last five years their qualify has dropped sharply. I would not buy a 3com nic now anyways. I'd choose a realtek over 3com.

      That said Linksys quality is rather inconsistent but home users already expect that from there HP/Compaq/Dell/Gateway machines so its really alright.

      I would not buy 3com products for my network simply because I made the mistake again and again about two years aog. I ended putting Intel nics in all my servers and realteks in all my workstations. Will n

    • I disagree with your glowing commendation of everything LinkSys. These are the geniuses who's early model DSL routers would reveal the login password [attrition.org] by clicking on "View Source" at the login page.

      With my first LinkSys DSL router I found that Internet traffic would inevitably become sluggish or just stop working after several days of heavy use and would not behave normally until I cycled the power. When I mentioned this to a friend he told me that he had two LinkSys routers at his office plugged

  • Palm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kisrael ( 134664 ) * on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:03PM (#9293427) Homepage
    Never shoulda given up Palm...remember when Palm's were all subranded US Robotics, and then 3Com?

    Actually, I'm kinda talkin' outta my a$$ here...I have no idea if selling Palm was a good business decision or not. I just know I've always like PalmOS, and 3Com used to get some advertising every time I put my PDA on its cradle...
    • Re:Palm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@monkelec[ ]c.com ['tri' in gap]> on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:12PM (#9293474)
      Yep, I still have my US Robotics Pilot 1000 :) Of course the serial transciever blew out years ago.

      US Robotics actually developed the first palms. But 3com was never interested in Palms, they bought US Robotics because they were the gold standard in modems and when you're a network company, modems are a goood business to be in.

      I think that was lack of foresight on 3coms part. When I got my palm 1000 I knew I was gonna be using one for the rest of my life, why didn't 3com know? :)

      • Re:Palm (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kisrael ( 134664 ) *
        Did US Robotics really develop the first PalmPilots, or just the first ones to acquire 'em? I think the latter.

        Anyway, I'd love to know why my first post was moded "offtopic".
        • Re:Palm (Score:3, Informative)

          yea palm was founded in 1992, and in 1993 came out with the zoomer" [], it costs 700$ and competed against the newton, and sharp and toshibas product lines as well. Nobody really ever bought a zoomer.
          • huh, interesting link

            I remember hearing that Palm had done a graffiti add on for Newton prior to this. I wasn't sure about the timing of when the first pilot came out.

            Jeez, I can't believe Xerox managed to defend a patent on their unistrokes unreadable hieroglyphics vs graffiti. What a frickin' joke.
      • My reading of the article is that the statement "they bought US Robotics because they were the gold standard in modems" is not correct.

        USR was a complete disaster," Doyle [Lee Doyle, an IDC analyst] says. "They went out and bought a modem company at a time when modems were being integrated into chips."

        Kessler [Alan Kessler, a former 3Com executive] has a different take on the deal. He says 3Com was never interested in U.S. Robotics' modem business.

        "We didn't want the modems; it was USR's concentrator

    • Re:Palm (Score:2, Informative)

      by nelsonal ( 549144 )
      The palm saga is prety interesting as well. After 3Com sold ~20% of Palm in an IPO the total value of the 80% they retained was significantly higher value than the whole of 3Com's value. It would be like only giving MS a total value of $40 billion when they have $50 billion in the bank. As I recall they gave the rest of the shares to then current 3Com shareholders. So any measure of 3Com's value should adjust for the palm spinoff (either by reducing older values or adding Palm to the business.
  • by www.fuckingdie.com ( 759660 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:04PM (#9293429) Homepage
    ...for the name. I can remember not too long ago 3Com ethernet products being as much as 10x the price of any other competitor. Granted the fact that 3Com builds it's own chips and has pioneered some amazing tech, but that alone it seems isn't enough these days.

    I also remember a time when Telus was in the process of dumping 3Com ADSL modems for DLink of all companies, because DLink made a better business case (read better price) for a product that was 99.9% as reliable as the 3Com product.

    So to sum it all up I think that 3Com sort of let things get away by simply not keeping up with the economy of computing, not the raw technology. They still have all kinds of respect in the industry, they just have to re-learn how to sell themselves.

    • by gui_tarzan2000 ( 625775 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:19PM (#9293514)
      ...to pay for tech support like us. Schools like ours keep losing funding because of idiotic over-spending by our legislators on stupid things and we get funding cuts when we can hardly stay above water as it is. They mandate technology in our schools but won't increase our funding to cover it. Typical government idiots.

      That said, we have been buying 3Com almost exclusively for the last 9 years but now I'm ticked off. I won't pay for basic tech support that they're now charging for because I don't feel that I should have to given the prices they charge for hardware *and* the fact that I won't call unless there's really a problem. If I worked for a for-profit business there'd be no problem but I don't and I have to watch what I spend even more closely.

      Even firmware updates for the 4400 are no longer free (there were three released this year alone) and it's really getting irritating so we finally decided to switch to HP for all of our network switches for now and see how that goes. I have had good luck with HP in the past and I know lots of people who use it and love it.

      Sorry 3Com, I just can't afford you anymore...

    • 10x the price?

      I never remember that - in fact I remember the opposite to be true.

      In the mid-90's I typically would compare 3com to Cabletron and Cisco - both of which were insanely priced - 3com was always the best bang for he buck and solid too

  • by phoxix ( 161744 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:09PM (#9293452)
    IMO would have to be Intel. I find Intel's NICs to be pretty rock solid, and pretty resonable in terms of their prices.

    Not to mention that lots of mobos ship with Intel's NICs built right in.

    Anyone with me on this?

    Sunny Dubey
    • by MrP- ( 45616 )
      I'm with you

      At work we use only 3com and intel.. we used to just use 3coms but we've had lots of problems with them (lots seem to overheat and die), so we switched to intel.. The intels have been great. I'm always replacing dead 3coms with intels
    • Yeah I'd probably agree - all in all, intel cards give good performance, and generally just work with linux - and these days it's pretty easy to find motherboards with intel nics built in, as you mentioned, which suits me just fine since I have had the best linux performance/reliability over the years using intel chipsets & cpus.
    • I work techinical support for an isp. half the time I ask what NIC they're using, it's an intel something or another.
  • Sue IBM (Score:5, Funny)

    by bstadil ( 7110 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:15PM (#9293496) Homepage
    I guess in a not too distant future they will file a multi billion lawsuit against IBM

    We all know that inabiliity to run your own business is always IBM's fault.

    • "THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO, before the dawn of man as we knew him, there was 3COM, an ape-like corporation making crude and pointless NICs out of dinobones and it's own waste, hurling them at IBM employees with crinkled hands. These so-called "NICs" were buried as witches, and defecated upon, and hurled at predators when wakened by the searing grunts of children. It wasn't a holly jolly DEF CON that year. For many were sued."
      -- Cybernetic Ghost of Networking Past From The Future

  • by Wtcher ( 312395 ) <wtcher@gmail.com> on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:19PM (#9293517) Homepage
    That's a very damning look at 3com... customers are supposed to be one of the most important things to a company (because if they're not happy, what're they going to do? Not come back, that's what) but the article insinuates that they dumped them like a cart full of wrinkled potatoes.

    I still like their products... or did like their products, I'm not sure how this outsourcing will affect their quality of goods. It seems like they're stripping away the one thing that people still like about them.

    Oh well. I wish them luck.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I had the (mis) fortune to work on an old 3Com Netbuilder router, way back in 1995. It was the first router I'd ever configured, so I didn't know any better. Let me just tell you..what a complete piece of CRAP! To start with, the damn thing booted off a FLOPPY DISK!!! Lost your disk?..sorry, no routing for you. It went downhill from there..lame menus, totally non-intuitive commands, after a few days I wanted to throw that piece of $h!T into the parking lot and drive over it with my car. Fortunately, my
  • by toxic666 ( 529648 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:29PM (#9293571)
    They lost in the enterprise. 3Com networking gear (switches and routers) was too unreliable to run even a small enterprise. Cisco, Bay, Cabletron and the likes (many also now dead) beat them there, and even Intel switches were much better. 3Com now has decent switches, but they don't offer big, bad core gear a large business needs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:29PM (#9293573)
    Then it would be 3com.com.com
  • by jmt9581 ( 554192 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:31PM (#9293586) Homepage
    Back in the earlier days of Linux when drivers for network cards were flakier, a 3COM card was the gold standard for compatibility, stability and ease of use. People used terms like "detected by every OS in the planet" and "just get a 3COM card." For many people, the premium price was worth it because 3COM cards were simply unmatched in quality.

    Fast forward to around 2001, when cards based on Intel and "Tulip" chips gained better driver support, started performing comparably to 3COM cards, and were significantly lower-priced. 3COM simply lost their competitive advantage. I think that most network cards are beginning to push the limits of the defined standards for 10/100 NICs, so 3COM will have to find a new arena in which to innovate if they want to regain their dominance.

  • Economic Impact (Score:5, Informative)

    by unfortunateson ( 527551 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:32PM (#9293593) Journal
    US Robotics secured major tax incentives from my town (Mt. Prospect, IL) and was expected to employ many engineers, etc.

    Shortly after 3Com acquired USR, they abandoned that facility, and it lay idle (and earning little tax for the community) for more than a year. It's now occupied by Skil/Dremel, and I wouldn't be surprised if further tax incentives were given to move them in.

    Sure, USR was getting to be a dinosaur when they were acquired (what's a modem without a cable, these days?), but 3Com really abandoned us here.
    • I knew USR was on the downswing when it took ages for their Courier modem to get a firmware upgrade to V.90, and again to V.92.

      The Courier, for those in the dialup set, was the gold standard for modems after Hayes left the market. If you needed reliability and had the money, you used the beefy Courier. Not too common in homes, but sighted all over the business world.
    • The same thing happened to Intel... Started a new building in Austin, TX, but was never finished. Now It's going to be a federal courthouse.

      Funny, both 3COM and Intel make ethernet cards...
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:35PM (#9293608)
    I remember reading that the average lifespan for an S&P company is 25 years, and the S&P is an index of our most valued firms. 3Com is burning out slightly ahead of schedule but their demise is nothing extraordinary. They failed to have the right products for the right market at the right price at the right time, like countless other firms.

    The differentiating aspect of tech firms is that many have huge cash hordes from the .com bubble that will sustain long past their expected expiration date. Sun for example will take at least a decade to die given their cash horde, notwithstanding their inability to generate profits.

  • by mr. methane ( 593577 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:54PM (#9293684) Journal
    Way Back When, I had a boatload of 3Com gear, including enough of their ethernet hubs to fill a room, another room full of their diskless workstations, and so on.

    Strike #1 was pissing off the enterprise customer. After a very ungraceful exit from the server/NOS marketplace, they concentrated on their infrastructure business. Unfortunately, both their hubs and workstations suffered from design defects which made them into a huge liability.

    Strike #2 was pissing off the VAR/Integrator market. While their network bridges and routers actually had better features and a lower entry point than Cisco's gear, they did nothing with it, and totally ignored the requirement to have a full line of products, from low-end to almost-carrier-grade. Combine that with several abortive attempts to bypass your channel "partners", and...

    Strike #3: Take the only thing you have, which is brand recognition, and instead of using the high-end name that everyone associates with "hey, that's good enough that I'm willing to pay a premium", and instead use the low-end name which competes with the lowest price around.

    Sometime in the mid-to-late 90's, I listened to Eric Benhamou give his vision for the future of 3Com. I went back to my hotel, plugged in my laptop, and sold my 3Com stock.
  • Bad quality... (Score:5, Informative)

    by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Sunday May 30, 2004 @10:56PM (#9293693)
    My experience with 3com is that manufacturing quality is extremely bad and design is at least questionable.

    First example: We had 10 3com network cards, with consecutive serial numbers. Some were faster, some slower and some killed the router interfaces because they produces so many errors. This points to extremely high tolerances in chip manufature and very poor Q/A.

    Second example: A 100Mbit switch, for office use. Because it had a substandard coil in a switching regulator it produced highly anoying noise. A replacement switch had the same problem. When I fixed it myself (by adding a filter capacitor that was part of the original design, but obviously removed to save money, in a higher price product!), I killed the switch, because the leads of a power semiconductor were not cut short enough. There was maybe .25mm space to a grounded plate and on touching the main chip was fried. Anyway, the switch chip grew so hot before, that it would probably not have lived long.

    My bottom line: Whatever you need, don't buy 3com. Any no-name product out of Asia is better quality.
  • A buddy and I were talking about 3com not too long ago. The conversation came about when I asked him "hmm, have you even heard anything about 3com lately?". 10 years ago, people were buying 3com 10BaseT switches and hubs like crazy. 6 years ago, 3com 100BaseT switches were the norm. But today? Do you even know anyone (large business, small business, or otherwise?) that has bought 3com gear lately?

    Maybe the disconnected ring in their new logo had a real meaning!

    On the flip side, companies like Extreme Netw

    • Strangely enough, I had a similar conversation just yesterday. We have some really old industrial computers at work that still run DOS and can't be upgraded because they're running specialized software. We need to get the data into our servers quickly so we were installing D-Link cards into them, and one of the guys remarked, "Shouldn't we be using 3Com cards since these computers are like 10 years old?"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2004 @11:16PM (#9293766)
    PSI, Enron, 3Com. Seem like buying the name to a stadium is the kiss of death. Some lame ass marketing guy buys the rights to his favorite team's stadium. Oh well. It's the 49ers. They deserve to associated with losers.

  • A Chinese engineer costs one-sixth of an American engineer.

    Not cloaking outsourcing in any other clothes other than cost to try and make it more palatable....
  • The 3com Sega ?
    I was trying to think of a cool switch that was 3 times as good as a Cisco but failed because Cisco said they'd have something better in a year or two...which ended up being as good but definitely not better...yeah..
  • The Chinese will steal'em blind. They can kiss their IPs goodbye. Watch'em lose their shirts in China...
  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @12:14AM (#9294043)
    Cisco vs. 3com:

    Recently I found out that our NBX call processor software has a DOS vulenerability. It wasn't a real big deal since the call processor isn't accessible via the internet, but since i'm a good network admin, I want to patch the box anyway. I go to 3com's website thinking I can download the updated code right? - Wrong. I had to call my "authorized reseller" and get the code from them. This just gave my reseller an excuse to come visit me and try to sell me more crap.

    Cisco, on the other hand, makes you buy a yearly support contract (not too expensive), and they give you access to their TAC site. Login to TAC, download updated software, install updated software - done.

    I'm a corporate customer and I like Cisco's method of support. I suspect alot of 3com customers feel the same.

    3com are you listening? I don't want to call a salesperson every time I need to patch a box!

  • by Cerilus ( 191314 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @12:15AM (#9294049)
    /* 3c501.c: A 3Com 3c501 Ethernet driver for Linux. */
    Written 1992,1993,1994 Donald Becker
    This is a device driver for the 3Com Etherlink 3c501.
    Do not purchase this card, even as a joke. It's performance is horrible,
    and it breaks in many ways.
    * Some documentation is available from 3Com. Due to the boards age
    * standard responses when you ask for this will range from 'be serious'
    * to 'give it to a museum'. The documentation is incomplete and mostly
    * of historical interest anyway.
    Ahh, the good ole days. 3C501s in everything, with a 3C503 in your 'big' boxes.

  • From the article:

    The joint venture with Huawei lets 3Com ride shotgun over product development while ridding its own payroll of expensive engineering talent and manufacturing plants.

    "A Chinese engineer costs one-sixth of an American engineer..."

    "A year ago 3Com had about 300 engineers on its payroll developing product. Today, we have closer to 900 engineers working on our behalf. Yet the cost of this is all off our books," Claflin says.

    Nuf' said.

  • back in 99/2000 i was a network admin for the senior development lab (basically a bunch of high end pcs and switches and routers where we taught various IT concepts in a protected network environment) at my school where i did my undergrad. All our boxes had 3crap 905C nics. At this time frame, 3 crap had extremely broken packet drivers for the 905C, which made doing multicasts with Ghost 6 impossible. Despite having the Dean of my program call 3com and bitch to them, they didnt lift a damn finger. Event
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @01:14AM (#9294313) Homepage
    3COM was the first company to support TCP/IP in a commercial product. 3COM's UNET [unixhub.com], released in 1980, was a TCP/IP stack for PDP-11 machines. But they dropped TCP/IP in favor of their own private protocol set for their PC LAN. That sold for a few years, then tanked.

    I did considerable work on that product while at Ford Aerospace. Basically, I had to overhaul TCP, and wrote ICMP and UDP from scratch. We used this internally within Ford, but couldn't sell it or give it away, since UNET was proprietary.

    Bill Joy's TCP implementation in BSD came years later. But because he was funded to give it away, it became popular, even though it sucked until the second release of 4.3BSD.

  • by toadlife ( 301863 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @01:35AM (#9294397) Journal
    I've worked at my job for 5 years now and have gone through over 2000 workstations with 3Com cards 3C509 Etherlink III/3c905/b/c. Failure of these cards is extrememly rare in my experience, and overall they have been great cards. I've never never had a single problem using Ghost with them (as someone here posted), and just recently I bought a 3c905c ($40.00) so I could turn my old gateway box into a BSD router/firewall. I could have bought a cheapy Linksys, which I use in my workstations, but since it was for my router, I wanted a card that handled part of the load itself. For this task, 3Com was a no-brainer to me.

    As for 3Com making a comeback: aside from high end cards, the NIC market seems like a commodity market now. Perhaps they can make headway in the switch/router market?
  • by XavierItzmann ( 687234 ) on Monday May 31, 2004 @02:48AM (#9294666)
    These guys are launching the NS-5 in July.

    Positronic CPU with over 1TB. Free lifetime OS updates, with instantaneous wireless downloads! They have interviews with the top designers/execs.
    You can even build your own!


    I would not be too concerned about the future of the U.S. Robotics company.

Those who can't write, write manuals.