IBM Software Group Surpasses Oracle in SW sales to become Number 2
Usually, I wouldn’t view being in second place as something to brag about, but let me develop the thought.
The first point to this is that IBM is not a Software Company. Although we have a good Software business, we are about solving customer problems with a myriad of solutions. Unfortunately, upwards of 80% is legacy solutions that only works on an IBM mainframe. That is the big lie not told. I’m not looking to debate semantics here, we are a technology company, leader in Innovation, IT player, call it what you want here. I will say that customers have driven our business since Watson built it.
Next point, there was a long time that IBM was the largest SW company, but that was when we had proprietary solutions such as SNA and based a lot of revenue on maintenance. What is interesting here is that the current leader is following the same path towards license based, proprietary offering. I’ve been on record that Microsoft is going down a similar path as IBM in earlier years and the market/customers will ultimately rule or change the rules (name your open std or platform here). They will then have to re-invent themselves as IBM has done a number of times. Further, Software as a Service and the related SOA capability will likely take us away from the packaged application tradition….speculation here on my part.
Nuther point, acquisitions are in vogue, and Oracle bought their way to their postion. IBM has made numerous acquisitions also, but they were based on a different model. I don’t want to debate this issue in this blog, but going back to a Lou Gerstner quote, “you make acquisitions to position yourself for the next wave of growth and to protect yourself from economic fluctuations”. That is a lot of what is behind the IBM strategy (my opinion only here) vs. what seems to be happening at Oracle who are buying marketshare (again, my opinion only). Many of their acquisitions are neither technically nor customer related to their core business. I realize you could argue this from a grand vision, but that is for greater minds or richer lawyers to do (or analysts).
So being number 2 isn’t really that bad. In fact, when you are dealing in the multi-billions, and when software is only a piece of your overall business (IBM has services, hardware and financing for those that didn’t notice), it’s a pretty good number. Given my statements on Microsoft’s issues, either IBM or Oracle (or SAP or some other) may be number one in the future. I wonder if you added up all the open everything out there if that was really #1?