I have three gut reactions to the news that Cognos is going to be acquired by IBM for 5 Billion.
1. OK it's official and now there is 'nobody' left standing. 'Nobody' meaning Information Builders, Microstrategy, SAS and the open sourcers. SAS is not going anywhere and was never the same kind of player as everybody else. Microstrategy is probably not an attractive target, nor is IBI. They will not be assimilated and will basically die off, like everybody else.
2. Cognos is going to disappear inside of IBM. It will be absorbed into the Blob of Websphere and will be IBMized into marketing oblivion. Very little of Cognos branding will survive once the product integration is complete. It will find itself barely recognizable amongst other brilliant IBM technologies like Cube Views etc. The good news is that if the DB2 engineers get their hands on it, Report Net will ultimately and finally work as it had been advertised.
3. Microsoft stands alone, again. We (now that I've sold out to the dark side) have a lot to prove in the enterprise space, but what we won't have is a huge product integration story to have to sell. That is actually a big deal in the enterprise space and the FUD works in Microsoft's favor in the short term. Whether or not MS reps can and will capitalize on this moment is anybody's guess. Even though I'm on the MS extended squad, I'm still from Missouri.
Outside of that, I will speculate that this finally represents the top of the bell curve in an industry that has taken too damned long to mature. I walk around with my jaw dropped when I think about what a focused industry might have done with BI had any of these monster companies done this acquisition work in 1999 when they should have. Then again, maybe you're nothing until you're a 5 Billion dollar company as far as the IBMs of the world are concerned.
Which is why everybody ought to be scared as hell of Google. One of these days, the 20%ers are going to recognize what they can do with Gapminder + BigTable. The lightbulb is going to go off in their heads and they're going to see how a bunch of their technologies can be put together into a zero footprint xPM stack. If they do it within 5 years, then they will make all of the big BI acquireres look dumb. What Google doesn't realize is that their ability to structure data from multiple sources is a huge strength considering that they've built an empire with data people have volunteered to them.
What is BI, in the end? It's gobbling up and spitting out very small chunks of data each cell of which has an extraordinary amount of metadata associated with it. Nobody has done that in parallel scale. The entire paradigm is ripe for re-invention. And this time, I hope they put some nicer graphics into it.