Business Management

Unisys CEO plots secure future for 144-year-old firm

Unisys is a company with a long back story, its roots and tendrils stretching as far back as the 19th century and the American Arithmometer Company which later became Burroughs – the controversial writer William Burroughs was a scion of the dynasty. Unisys was formed when Burroughs combined with its rival Sperry in 1986, a deal that was one of technology’s first mega-mergers.

Unlike most of its generation, Unisys is still here but its current focus is a swing away from its long history. Today it is attempting to pull off another change of identity and when I meet Unisys CEO Peter Altabef he wants to stress that the company is all about security.

Of course, information security today is the gift that keeps on giving for suppliers of software, appliances and services. My journey to the Park Lane hotel in London where we are scheduled to meet is even delayed by security checks as if to underline the challenges we all face today. But Altabef notes that it’s curious how only his company of all the giants that participate in IT services puts security on the masthead. ‘Unisys: Securing Your Tomorrow’ goes the tagline.

That’s a fact. There are many IT consulting services companies from Accenture to IBM and CSC but only one big brand is focusing explicitly on infosec. That might be a smart idea for Unisys, a company that, it seemed to me, suffered something of an identity crisis through the Nineties and Noughties. In those years it stopped making PCs but seemed an odd combination of software, powerful servers – based on its own IP – and services.

Altabef arrived at the company at the beginning of 2015 and says his first job was to sort through a forest of SKUs the company offered.

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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