To my mind there are three types of BI query tool – those from database vendors, the traditional vendor agnostic suites such as Business Objects, Cognos and Microstrategy and the high-end specialist tools used by data analysts with PhDs in the subject.
For a long while the database vendors achieved a low market share; customers either found that the tools locked them into specific database technologies or the tools just did not cut it in terms of functionality or performance. But things have moved on. Now the vendor neutrals are being squeezed hard as the database vendors buy their way into market share.
This year Microsoft bought Proclarity and are now busy integrating the product along with their portal, score carding and workflow offers into a new product out next year. Oracle in the meantime are taking that gem of a product they acquired with Siebel and augmenting it with new functionality. Product integration is a tough game – it remains to be seen how well the two db vendors do – witness how long it has taken Business Objects to sort out the combination of Crystal Reports and the core BO product set which of course was always a little disjointed around the web and desktop versions.
In fact Business Objects are just about to start a new round of integration as they are set to buy a niche provider of profitability analytics, ALG software. Presumably, moving up the value chain is a good move for BO as the value of the commodity query tools is eroded by a vast number of competing (and generally very good) products. This purchase though has done little to quell rumours that Business Objects is a takeover target itself; both Oracle and IBM have been mentioned in the press. Personally, I see little technical merit in Oracle buying BO as they already have an excellent product, but as a means of rationalising the market it may be a good move. IBM on the other hand is short of an industrial strength BI suite but given their relationships with Cognos and Hyperion then either of these would be a good fit, perhaps Cognos being marginally better for IBM.
I have a feeling that the independent sector will be missing one or two players by Q2-2007.