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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Business Intelligence : Stage Set For Consolidation

The last vestige of enterprise software untouched by consolidation is beginning to see some action – the Business Intelligence market. A recent acquisition made by Hyperion – it acquired Brio ( more of a reporting tool) made good sense. Now with Microsoft announcing plans to aggressively pursue this segment – the action hots up. Microsoft says it is throwing significant dollars for moving into a segment of the business-software market: business intelligence. In contrast to other pockets of software, sales of business-intelligence (BI), or analytics software, are rising. A beachhead in business intelligence will let Microsoft develop tools and programs that let corporate customers plumb the depths of multiple databases and applications to get answers swiftly. The next version of Excel, the spreadsheet application inside Office, will let users tie into data warehouses and enterprise applications, and cut and slice that data using Excel. Microsoft is said to be working on a raft of other products that will help it compete more broadly against the existing BI leaders. As Bweek article points out, Microsoft has vowed to take on Symantec in security, Intuit in small-business accounting, Adobe Systems in graphic design and document tools and, of course, Google in all things search. ( My Take : Not to say they would win – Microsoft launched SQL server promising more analytical capability than most others – oracle did not feel the heat as much as expected and Microsoft did not win in the database market to the extent expected.)

Next : Watch out for some consolidation in this space. Microsoft is hardly alone in eyeing this sector.Oracle recently described Siebel’s analytics as hidden jewel. Cognos, Business Objects may look attractive to enterprise majors.SAS may be the only major left untouched. Microsoft could also make some acquisitive moves besides SAP & Oracle. Oracle used its recent Oracle Open World conference to outline analytics as a key focus going forward. While there is a near consensus about the imminent consolidation in this space, the barriers could be self made – oracle looking at smaller acquisitions moving forward( they may be content with siebel analytics), SAP is conservative in playing the acquisition game and IBM as usual may not see acquisition a good fit – given its emphasis on services and consulting more than apps. As the BI industry is a mega segment and a fast growing one at that( repeated surveys show BI as a high priority spend area for enterprises), and a very important technology that could be used for competitive differentiation by business - the four majors may still make aggressive moves.

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