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2/5/2008
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Microsoft Gets Gartner's Business Intelligence Top Ranking

The company makes a surprise leap ahead of Business Objects and Cognos in its ability to execute on BI products and pricing.

Business Objects and Cognos have long been considered the leaders in business intelligence platforms. But in a surprising new report, Gartner ranks Microsoft ahead of those companies in its ability to execute.

Gartner's "magic quadrants" are typically annual market evaluations that place software vendors in one of four quadrants within a square: niche players, visionaries, challengers, and leaders. Specific placement within a quadrant depends on a vendor's ability to execute, which moves them upward, and completeness of vision, which moves them to the right.

Business Objects, Cognos, and Microsoft were placed among the leaders in Gartner's just-released Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms, 2008. But the research firm placed Microsoft above the other two in its ability to execute, including the competitiveness and success of its BI goods and services, its viability and investment in BI, and the execution of its sales and pricing. In last year's BI platform report, Gartner put Microsoft in the challenger quadrant.

Business Objects and Cognos slightly outranked Microsoft in completeness of vision, which includes such things as market understanding, sales strategy, and product development and delivery strategy.

By placing the world's largest vendor of commodity software as one of the BI market leaders, Gartner is demonstrating how quickly BI is moving from a specialized, expensive technology into a commodity itself. The rapidly commoditizing BI market, many industry observers believe, is among the reasons Business Objects accepted a $6.8 billion buyout offer from SAP and Cognos took a $5 billion buyout offer from IBM.

In its report, written by James Richardson and three other Gartner analysts, the firm cites the attractiveness of Microsoft's integrated Office suite, its PerformancePoint Server released last year, and SQL Server to businesses standardized on Microsoft platforms. "The bundling and pricing of its BI products makes [Microsoft] an economically attractive offering that will be considered by many organizations," the analysts wrote, adding that Microsoft's large development community will further the platform.

They also wrote that customers cite Microsoft for having the "best BI software quality of all the megavendors, with over half of them reporting no problems with the software," and attribute this quality, in part, to much of its technology having been internally developed rather than acquired.

Other companies placed in the leaders' quadrant included Oracle, MicroStrategy, and SAS Institute, while Information Builders straddled the line between challengers and leaders. The leader ranking also is a move up for MicroStrategy, which Gartner ranked as a visionary last year.

SAP was ranked separately from Business Objects as a challenger, since SAP's acquisition of Business Objects was completed just a few weeks ago. Gartner ranked QlikTech and Tibco Spotfire as visionaries, and Actuate, Arcplan, Board International, and Panorama Software as niche players.

Gartner defines BI platforms as those that enable users to build applications that help organizations learn and understand their business. It divides these capabilities into the functions of integration, information delivery, and analysis.

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