SPSS Gives IBM Advantages, But Can It Execute?

IBM's performance in the BI market has been sub-par, but the SPSS acquisition gives it a trump card against SAP and Oracle.
What's more, IBM's acquisition could create problems for top competitor SAP, which relies on SPSS as its predictive analytics platform through a partnership with the company. Oracle also partners with SPSS. "SPSS has a number of key partnerships that I think will be at risk," Sallam says.

The acquisition also gives SPSS the strength of IBM's sales force and its deep investment pockets, which could create problems for the king of predictive analytics, SAS Institute.

SAS Institute had 33% of the advanced analytics market in 2008 and SPSS had 14%. The market is highly fragmented after those two, with Microsoft coming in No. 3 at 1.7% of the market, with the advanced analytics capabilities it offers through SQL Server.

Jim Davis, chief marketing officer at SAS, differentiates his company's advanced analytics capabilities as "looking to solve problems very specific to [a specific] industry," while SPSS's approach is "a bit commoditized." Davis also sees the potential for SPSS getting swallowed up by IBM in a way that dilutes its market presence.

SAP's Bill McDermott, however, takes a more delicate approach with the acquisition, given SAP's close working relationships with IBM in joint deals for business apps with databases and servers. McDermott claims no threat. "Because it's two friendly partners, I expect this acquisition will help the SAP relationship with SPSS," said McDermott, president and CEO of global sales at SAP. "We'll be able to consolidate two conversations into one."

Gartner's Sallam isn't so sure, given that the fiercest competition in the BI market rests between SAP's Business Objects and IBM's Cognos. "This is a threat to Business Objects, which has based its entire predictive analytics [offering] around that SPSS relationship," Sallam said.

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