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5/13/2005
03:35 PM
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The Big Picture: IT Marriages Made In Customer Heaven

It's amazing that users aren't asked more about pending mergers.

A year or so ago, Larry Ellison said that there ultimately will be only five computer companies left once this mergers-and-acquisitions craze has ended. Well, he's certainly keeping up his end of the bargain with recent acquisitions of PeopleSoft and Retek. But I'm not sure Larry ever asked any of his customers what they thought before Oracle decided to acquire these companies. In fact, during all of this M&A activity, I find it amazing and sometimes befuddling that you, the user/buyer, aren't asked more about these pending marriages.

So let's have some fun. If it were up to you, which companies should get together with the ultimate goal of making your professional life easier? In order for the partnerships to work, they must deliver on the following objectives: reduce complexity for the customer, provide further innovation in the market, help customers cut the amount of money spent on maintenance, and, of course, make sound financial sense.

Based on this trend, let's look at a number of partnerships that might make your world a happier place to live (just playing, of course).

Microsoft and SAP: The possible upside--the ability to connect the front and back office and cut out redundant reporting. And what about the potential of having this type of offering extend across the entire value chain? The recent alliance on project Mendocino may just be an early test to see how the cultures can co-exist and how the market responds to such a pairing.

Oracle and BEA: Why hasn't this happened yet? This is one where all the goals described above can be achieved. Reduced maintenance and complexity would be a given, and infrastructure integration could occur with less angst.

IBM and Hewitt Associates or Keane: As vertical-industry expertise continues to grow in importance and IBM's focus on business-process transformation sharpens, companies like Hewitt and Keane should be attractive. With IBM's recent acquisition of Healthlink, it will be no surprise to see it build out service offerings in industries that are showing a propensity to spend on IT.

Hewlett-Packard and EDS: With Mark Hurd now on board, it seems logical for HP to once again see if it can expand into services. EDS has gone through some tough times of its own and seems to have righted the ship; it's now focusing on profitable deals that benefit the customer and its own business model. With EDS having a formal alliance with NCR Teradata, there might be some nice relationships that carry over to Hurd's new job.

EMC and Cognos: Talk about two companies that are doing beautiful things for customers and shareholders! EMC has made the transition from a pure-play storage company to one focused on information-life-cycle management. If it's the company's goal to continue providing life-cycle products, then getting into business intelligence is a plausible addition.

Apple and Starbucks: Think of all the possibilities of pairing two companies that fundamentally see technology as a way to build a better customer experience. Music happens to be one of the fastest-growing areas of Starbucks' business. Who knows what this would mean for us, other than getting a great cup of coffee and enjoying a free wireless connection?

These are just a few partnerships that may benefit our cause. What do you think? Please share with me a couple of mergers that would make your world an easier place to be.

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