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When acquisitions are bad news

Vae victis

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Acquisitions may or may not be good deals for the purchaser, but at best they pose serious questions for the users of the acquired company. In my recent article TIBCO acquires Spotfire: why?, I discussed the possibility that TIBCO was likely to be focusing the Spotfire BI solution in a different direction from previously, which might serve its best interests but not necessarily those of existing users of the Spotfire software. However, they are likely to be much better off than the users of one, and possibly two, other acquisitions that have recently been announced.

The first of these is Stratature, which is a master data management (MDM) vendor that has been acquired by Microsoft. The latter has announced that it is going to kill the product. All it wants it for is to pick bits and pieces of its technology so that it can upgrade its own software: it doesn't even intend to use it to go into the MDM market for itself except to ensure synchronisation across the dimensions and hierarchies of multiple OLAP cubes. In other words, it will be limited to use for analytical MDM and business intelligence and not the broader offering that has hitherto been available from Stratature. Of course, Microsoft has made woolly, placatory noises about future announcements, but there is nothing concrete. As far as Stratature users and partners are concerned, Microsoft has said that it will continue to honour existing contracts, but there will be no new sales, no product development and the company will inevitably lose the ability to support the Stratature software in any meaningful way - all-in-all it is a black day for Stratature users.

I guess you can't blame Microsoft: its job is to maximise shareholder value and the Stratature technology will help it to do that. On the other hand, Stratature has, as far as I can see, sold its user base and partners down the river. I hope the pieces of silver were worth it.

The other acquisition that I am worried about is Allen Systems Group's purchase of Mobius. Now, ASG has always been acquisitive and the purchase of Mobius will certainly augment the company's position in the enterprise content management (ECM) space. Moreover, ASG has historically been happy to support multiple product lines in the same space, for example, it has two or three - depending on how you look at it - metadata repositories, so I am not worried about Mobius' ECM users. Who I am worried about are the users of "ABS for Spreadsheet Compliance", which is Mobius' spreadsheet management application, which is discussed in my latest report.

The reason I am worried is because the press release on the acquisition talks only about content management and it is by no means clear where spreadsheet management would fit into ASG's portfolio. In particular, the company's focus is on the management of infrastructure (content, metadata, operations, performance and so on) and it may not see spreadsheet management in that light. In theory, it could divest itself of this part of the Mobius portfolio, but the spreadsheet software integrates with, though it does not rely on, Mobius ViewDirect, which is part of the ECM offering, so this seems unlikely. Hopefully, ASG will not merely support but continue to develop the Mobius spreadsheet management software, but either way the market, not to mention users, deserves a clear statement of intent from the company.

Copyright © 2007, IT-Analysis.com

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