As industry analysts, we follow the comings and goings, trials and tribulations of dozens of companies who impact the industries we closely follow. Their fortunes rise and fall based on how quickly they well they are able to maintain mindshare as well as marketshare. Unlike financial analysts, who apply their own proprietary models to examine (exhaustively, I might add) balance sheets, filings, ROI – and sometimes even have more accurate information than the data provided by the companies themselves, we look at companies from a far more subjective
perspective: innovation counts, as does mindshare, as does the ability to turn around a company’s focus on a dime.
Funny things have happened from our musings. Last year, MSNBC liked a sentence that our own David Goldes penned so much that they asked for (and received) permission to quote it. Next thing we knew, that line (along with Goldes’ e-mail address) was appearing in large ads in the Wall Street Journal and in bus- and train-length ads on the sides of moving vehicles.
There are far more companies in the technology sector than we could hope to follow and get to know; therefore, inclusion in our list is perhaps indicative of our own leanings as much as it was the ability of their marketing and analyst relations people to keep their company’s name in front of us.
This review, by the way, is presented perhaps more as a summary of the past year rather than a harbinger of the future; past performance is no guarantee as they say. And now, the envelope please:
3Com. Even its basic producs (network cards) easily outdistance the competition. Needs to align its acquisitions and make everything work together. It’s harder than it sounds. How about a stadium on the east coast?
AOL. Compuserve. Prodigy. Dramatic changes in the market (esp. pricing) can be devastating. So are busy signals for end users. AOL’s restatement of its financials proved it lost 17 cents on every dollar it earned. CompuServe loses 10,000 members a day (and is not adding nearly so many new ones). GEnie has 20,000 members left. And Apple logged eWorld off. These companies may become footnotes before they know it, if they don’t leverage their base as an ISP successfully.
Apple. NextStep and Jobs are an unbeatable combination, but the OS doesn’t work on Apple’s Mac platform. Will loyalists wait until ’98?
AT&T. They started the year by announcing the spin-off of NCR and Lucent. Now, with John Walter, they hope to concentrate on their core markets. I hope they find them. A further downsized AT&T, concentrating on the modern day equivalent of “long lines,” is a powerful contender; adding new media (read: Net access) into the mix while leveraging its customer base is a potentially lethal combination.
Cisco. Its products run the Net. ‘Nuf said.
Computer Associates International. As it continues to integrate its acquisitions (most recently Cheyenne), it has become almost as beloved as Microsoft in its competitors’ hearts.
Corel. Only Michael Cowpland could save WordPerfect. Applying the Corel marketing machine to the product is its only hope (along with restoring the expected high level of tech support). Corel also understands the WordPerfect legacy user. High expectations here.
IBM. Gerstner has reenergized and refocused the company (and Wall Street agrees). Its mainframe business has never been hotter. Whither the mini-computers? Whither OS/2?
Intel. Has learned the art of eating its own children and then growing new (and faster) ones. And Intel continues to push the envelope of the industry with a basic ingredient: continuing, genuine innovation.
Lotus. Domino could dominate, but the user community needs to understand its significance first. By unbundling the unique aspects of Notes (replication, for example), it can create a new standard, but risks weakening the growth of the overall Notes market. For those who doubted, the wisdom of IBM’s investment is definitely beginning to pay off.
Lucent. No longer tied to AT&T, they have created tremendous mindshare and an ability to sell to what formerly was Lucent’s AT&T-parent competition.
Microsoft. NT Advanced Server flies. Windows 95 has the workstation mindshare. If only you could upgrade Win95 to Windows NT workstation.
MSNBC. Having trouble bridging news and on-line functionality; possibly due to huge rift between two corporate cultures. It’s an idea whose time has come – all they have to do is innovate rather than repurpose.
Netscape. Refocusing, but de-emphasizing the Navigator name which owns the browser mindshare market. Now aiming at Lotus but has yet to fire more than a shot across its bow. Missing ingredient: tools and a datastore
Novell. Owned mindshare for networking, but Microsoft caught on. Needs to leverage its roots. Divesting non-core products and non-core execs has been a good move. IntraNetWare makes the Net a plugin to Novell shops. The core product needs to be marketed to non-IS managers de-emphasizing speeds and feeds.
NCR. Strong brand name returns; hopefully not too much damage was inflicted. Needs to return to roots in banking and retail systems.
Oracle. Now that its own internal financial reporting has been straightened out, its ownership of the database market is unquestioned. Other companies have learned that moving away from core competencies can be devastating? Does Oracle envision a world of Oracle hardware (NCs) running Oracle software?
SGI. Why Cray?
Sun Microsystems. JAVA and JAVAStation. Need we say more? Don’t lose the momentum here.
Symantec. Web, JAVA, Act, and Peter Norton. Neat package. Neat integration.
Tandy. Needs to go back to its Radio Shack roots. In its day, the TRS-80 was considered a market leader. Now they are narrowing their Universes and abandoning their (Computer) Cities.
Wang. No hardware, no debt. Its workflow and imaging innovations are set to propel it forward.
Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex. This article originally appeared in the Basex Online Journal of Industry and Commerce (BOJIC).