March 2009
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Lost in Acquisition

Well, the rifleman’s stalking the sick and the lame,
Preacherman seeks the same, who’ll get there first is uncertain.

It’s been a busy year in Mergers and Acquisition land in the CMS and Search space. I’m always extremely worried about the future of a product that is acquired by a larger beast, and always interested to see whether they survive the acquisition. And the re-branding is fascinating. To summarise some of the recent activity:

  • The death of the RedDot brand has been formally announced. So another memorable product name is going to vanish, becoming part of the not-so-catchy Open Text Web Solutions family. I would be surprised if we see the re-branded product on CMS Vendor Selection shortlists as often as we saw RedDot.
  • Last month, Microsoft announced their plan for FAST ESP and FAST Search for SharePoint. There was silence for a while, but it looks like FAST does have a fighting chance. It does, however, beg the question: If SharePoint Search was as good as we thought, why did Microsoft acquire FAST?
  • In January 2009, Autonomy announced that they would acquire Interwoven. Forrester use the word “swallows” in their recently released report. As a random aside, amazingly parts of the Forrester research site still appears to be running on Vignette 5 aka StoryServer! Gotta love the URL format. It seems like only yesterday that Autonomy and Verity merged into the uber-search company, but that was three years ago.
  • Oracle is still going crazy, finalising their BEA deal last year. According to wikipedia, they are now bigger than IBM. The acquisition came with all of the items that BEA had formally acquired. Does anyone remember the Plumtree Corporate Portal, which looked set to be the next best .NET based portal, before becoming BEA Aqualogic Portal and vanishing (although still active, we’re told) into the Oracle family? And remember about 20 months ago when Stellent became Oracle Universal Content Management. Another catchy name. Stellent appears in the Middleware section on the Oracle site!

If you want to buy this picture, click it to go to the artist site

There was an interesting article in CMS Watch recently noting how many companies unimaginatively name their system after the product or company (Christening your ECM product). It is also interesting how the big vendors are following the Microsoft naming convention. More and more products are being called <Vendor Name> Content Management or <Vendor Name> [Content|Web|Enterprise] Solution. Maybe it is just me, but I find it extremely confusing. Especially now that the big players invariably have more than one product. For example, In July 2008, the Mediasurface group was acquired by Alterian. Immediacy CMS and Mediasurface became part of Alterian’s suite of products described as an “Enterprise Marketing Platform”. I love the fact that Alterian Corporate Edition is Immediacy, while Alterian Enterprise Edition is Mediasurface’s Morello. The description of the products on the Alterian Web Site is extremely uninformative – especially the technology section. I’d be interested if anyone can extract any information for the whole section. Also, sadly, the name Pepperio appears to have survived.

Finally, on the topic of CMS M&A, a thought on CMS companies buying agencies. Now I work for an agency, and find it slightly strange that some of our competitors are actually owned by vendors. About two years ago, Microsoft acquired Avenue A/Razorfish. Even more strangely, about a year ago, EMC (the same people that bought Documentum in 2003) aquired Conchango, a smaller UK based agency. While I appreciate that Conchango was bought to form part of the consulting division, the fact that they also promote CMS products that compete with their parent doesn’t gel for me. I wonder if all the Conchango employees have become Fans on the FaceBook page yet.

I’m not sure what the point of this posting was. I would say that, in summary, the best place to get a decent overview of the CMS offerings from a major vendor is probably a report such as those produced by CMS Watch. The second best place is probably wikipedia. And the worst place is probably the vendor’s site. And if you don’t believe me, try to figure out IBM’s Content Management offering from the IBM site.

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