Thursday, July 10, 2014

Which IT companies will still be here in 50 years?

If you had to pick a set of companies, today, that would still be around in IT in another 50 years, who would they be? And perhaps what would they be?

IBM. They've been around for 50+ years already, won't they be around in another 50? IBM is a diverse company, with its fingers in the R&D pie, as well as still being a provider of its legacy "400" hardware and software pairing. It is hard to see a weakness if it is well managed and adapts well. It is a beak weak when it comes to networking. Would eating Juniper fix that gap?

HP. Another IT company that has been around for some time but unfortunately it has not been managed nearly as well. Its Un*x and other operating systems are either dead or on life support. Age has not been kind to HP so it is hard to see it staying strong by itself for too long. What would be best if Cisco jumped in and ate it for dinner. If Cisco picked the time right, it could quite likely get a lunch special and for desert, Cisco could add in some SAP just to round things out.

Would EMC get hungry and want a piece of action? EMC has a well performing portfolio of virtualisation technology in the guise of VMware and storage. It isn't going to let VMware go anywhere, you can be sure of that, unless there's a fire sales of EMC assets and I can't see that happening. Maybe as Larry gets close to retirement, he'll get flirty like Mr Jonathan Schwartz did and cuddle up to EMC or maybe just jettisons pieces like Solaris/SPARC if they continue to not impress in sales. Which leaves Oracle as a one-trick pony (the database) and that just seems too vulnerable to be left alone. EMC would have little trouble with anti-trust there, so gobble-gobble, goes the take over monster. Plus EMC might want to add something software-ish to add to VMware in order to be less reliant on hardware as the world virtualises more and more.

I can't see Microsoft staying out of the action forever so the only question is with whom. Whichever of IBM/HP is less in love with Linux, so maybe that's a Cisco/HP/Microsoft marriage. Or would the prenuptials involving anti-trust and Microsoft's dominance be a problem? Not if it happened far enough into the future (10-20 years?) such that Windows has less market share due to Android devices and Apple things.

Apple's a rich company these days where would they go? And why won't they stay alive by themselves? There was a time when Steve Jobs was not at Apple during the 1990s and the impact on the share price was not good. The big question has got to be what sort of training and successor selection was he able to do before he passed on? In 5 or 10 years I think we ought to have an idea of what that answer might be but otherwise, I can easily see a marriage between Apple and IBM (with Juniper) looking like a marriage made in heaven. Although I cannot see a joining there based on corporate cultures but then neither was Oracle/Sun and that still happened.

Who's left. Dell. Throw Dell in the EMC pile as a provider of children's toys and other bits and pieces to compliment the adult kit. This would still leave the EMC basket without a real player in the network space so maybe there is room there for someone like Linksys to grow up and provide EMC customers with a fully fledged network stack. Maybe throw in some Qualcomm for good measure?

What about facebook and Google? They're Internet advertising companies, not IT companies, and I can't see either getting into the hardware business.

As for Ericson, Nokia, etc, well, get out some playing cards and write some names on them, shuffle then and deal.

My problem here is that I've ended up with three piles, not two, and I'm told that long term strategists see only two vendors being the providers in 50 years. If you were to start with Juniper as the base of one stack and Cisco for other, how would you build up a stack of companies that each had its own collection or puzzle pieces for delivering turn-key customer solutions?

Of course the big omission here (or perhaps mistake, if you like) is the absence of disruptive technologies from new companies that start up, strike gold and grow up to rival those that I've mentioned here. I'll note that none of the new and big companies (e.g. facebook, Google) do rival the older in big companies in any direct fashion: they've got their own new market. Thus what is perhaps possible is for a new comers (or two) to enter a new field (bio mechanics where pieces of humans are build using stem cell technology or welding bits of computers into humans (bionic eye and ear), etc) and gobble up some of the present incumbents (should they last long enough.)

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