Opportunity Loss: IT is NOT JUST Consolidating

In our observation on Top Management Awry we have posited that IT-Information Technology is simply being hopelessly mismanaged with a finger pointing towards CEO’s and Boards of Directors. They are treating a vital, strategic, and rapidly evolving IT assets (people, software and hardware) as cost centers to be bean-counter minimized. CEOs will cite Harvard Business and others citing that IT is consolidating and commoditizing such that all IT deserves is cost control. This is our counter argument.

The IT Consolidation Only Myth

Consolidation in IT has been prominent on the IT pundits radar for the past five years – and although the reduction to monopoly markets has stopped (Microsoft appears to have gained and is now in the process of losing its last monopoly market with the IE browser), there is still a lot of consolidation going on. Take Nigel Pendse and his OLAP Report.

The OLAP Report has been one of the more vigorous reports on not just the OLAP but also broader BI marketplace. But what has happened to the OLAP marketplace in the past year – Pendse’s top 10 OLAP players have been reduced to 6 – and more consolidation is anticipated. Move over to the Application Server marketplace and the shift to complete stacks has reduced a multi-player market to perhaps 6 major players: BEA, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun , and Tibco. And if Oracle has its way – BEA will become a part of Oracle and reduce that number to 5.

And the database marketplace has similarly consolidated at the lowend leaving 5 or 6 players of diminishing size: Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, MySQL, Sybase, and the PostgresSQLs. A similar phenomenon can be seen in the merging PC marketplace with a tailing market membership: HP, Dell, Apple, Lenovo, Acer, and all the rest. So IT is now in the 1940-1950s era of the auto market place consolidating down to a few oligarchs. Well not exactly.

Growth in the Midst and on the IT Periphery

There will be substantial growth right in the midst as well as on the periphery of the IT marketplace. Here are just 2 examples of growth in the midst. In the late 1990’s IBM got out of the storage device business just as storage management was taking off with the likes of Brocade, EMC, Emulex with Cisco, HP, and Sun all adding significantly to their revenue streams. Likewise, left for moribound with Microsoft’s thwarting of Web standards and the browser space as it reserved special status for the Smart Client PC; Web 2.0 has nonetheless arisen with players like Google, Yahoo, Tibco, SalesForce.com and a thousand and one SaaS knights showing full GUI Information at your Fingertips can be done on the Web.

On the periphery there are many new IT markets emerging. Laptop/Notepad market is seeing a new round of innovation from the periphery such as Apples slow march to a tablet with iPod and iPhone. Or the ground breaking innovations of the OLPC-One Laptop Per Child which will astonish people with its capabilities. These smart device innovations are already appearing in play/toys and embedded products. And of course, the constantly morphing mobile phone has attracted no less than Apple, Microsoft and Google to an accomplished field of Motorola, Nokia, NEC, and Samsung among others. IP uber Alles is marching into storage, identity management, and VOIP. And there are a hoard of companies from 360Desktop injecting a new 360 GUI view through Fusion-io with super speedy 700GB ++ drives to DimDim with free Web meeting services. IT innovation is starting to landslide again – and this time there is very little of the IT trade press left to provide an informed roadmap. Talk about opportunity for gaining distinct competitive advantage.

So as the core consolidates, the IT periphery continues to spawn innovations propelled by nanotechnology, Moore’s Enduring Law, and now green-powered innovation. But also interfacing closer to human senses from tactile to visual will continue to merge man with machine. But at the same time expect, huge markets to appear in the IT Midst. Microsoft is onto something huge with secure and utterly robust storage and retrieval of health and other social records. And one has barely touched the surface of periodic monitoring of an aging populations vital signs.

The limits to IT and Computing are now in the realm of Ray Kurzweil’s The Spiritual Machine or William Gibson’s Necromancer.

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