Autonomy gets blamed for many things, but Autonomy sure has a strong appetite and some ambition. I respect that. Congratulations for doing such a move at a time when so many others are sitting watching financial markets go down, laying off people... Autonomy is very brave, or maybe they just have to go down that road? I have always seen a great similarity between the dynamics of Autonomy and Oracle so I naturally found Alan Pelz-Sharpe's (Analyst at CMS) comments on the subject most interesting
When Alan compares Autonomy with Oracle, I think he's hitting something big. Oracle started as an enabling technology and chose (or had to choose because of its size or culture) to change its value proposition and to become an application vendor. A database, like a search engine, is an enabling technology, it makes many things and applications possible.
But Oracle chose to become more of an application vendor and less a technology vendor. Were they scared of Microsoft's database or of the emergence of open source, or envious of SAP's profits and customer loyalty? In other words, did they lack technological excellence or faith in their capacity to stay the best technology, or did they see that another market happened to be bigger and was generating higher margins? I guess the answer is not relevant; what is relevant is that they made that move, and let companies like Business Objects take the BI market (ironically enough to later become part of SAP). On the other end, the value always ends on the end-user desktop or i-phone or blackberry, and the application was the way from the database to reach the end-user.
I think there is a parallel between the evolutions of Autonomy and Oracle. Autonomy is turning away from search and moving towards search-enabled applications. Nobody will dare to say this could be because their product or technology is not good enough, let's all agree it is just because they see better margins elsewhere. But I think that even though Autonomy is a very well run company and is making wise financial decisions, they will miss an important market, because in the case of search, the way to get to the end-user happens to be search itself : Search is a technology that also happens to be the ultimate application...
Most of Sinequa's competitors, like Exalead for example, say that enterprise search will become a commodity, a market for Google, Microsoft or Open source, and just like the leader Autonomy, they move towards verticalized applications, BI-like search, Governance Risk Compliance solutions,... a blue ocean where a lot of money lies for those that will solve very specific information access and management needs.
This is great news for companies like Sinequa, because this time the huge market is the enabling technology: Enterprise Search itself. It is so because the value of collaboration, of sharing information, of providing better access to knowledge, happens to be the real goldmine for companies. And it is 100% delivered by enterprise search. It is anything but simple to deliver, just as, a decade ago, it was not easy to deliver a good enough exhaustive web search engine. But we never learn...
The economic crisis will probably slow down infrastructure players in their capacity to ramp up on their enterprise search solutions, and my bet is that they will always have a lot of trouble connecting their search to the outside world anyway. The economic crisis will accelerate the verticalization of Autonomy and alike. Meanwhile, organizations absolutely need to do more with less, to develop productivity and collective intelligence and only enterprise search solutions will make this happen.
That looks like an opportunity for companies like Sinequa. This is not a dream, dreams are for higher purposes like the one President Obama realized for many of us this last November, but this is an ambition I share with most of my colleagues at Sinequa and especially with Alexandre Bilger who runs the company with me. And you will see, "Yes we can"!
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