The future of software

Had an interesting set of conversations at work a couple of days ago. Some speculation as to how the tech market will consolidate as time progresses – the opinion that there will eventually only be four software vendors offering complete enterprise software solutions was raised, and seemed fairly popular (the four vendors in question being Microsoft, SAP, Oracle & IBM). This was raised alongside the suggestion that we’re in the midst of some kind of SOA revolution, and everyone will have SOA systems in place in a couple of years time (yeah, right).

Now, I’ll not pretend to be an expert on the situation, but I do have a few thoughts (I’m sure not completely original, but… nonetheless):

(1) If SOA / web services is the way forward (and I think it is…), then surely the need to buy your entire software infrastructure from one vendor evaporates? It becomes entirely possible to use the open standards to get best of breed products to interoperate – the single biggest argument for buying from one vendor, you would think. It was then further suggested – and I find this slightly mind-boggling – that anyone with decent technology would immediately be acquired by one of the giants.

Maybe, but I’m sceptical. I don’t think that Microsoft/etc., want to play in every field, necessarily. They are all fighting slightly different corners (with the exception of SAP/Siebel. Well, Oracle). Microsoft seems to be the only one concerned with owning the entire desktop – and even they are slowly opening up the Windows platform to others.

The reality is that (some) consumers — and many enterprises — will always choose best of breed solutions, because sometimes you just need the additional functionality without customising Siebel/Netweaver to pieces.

I think its interesting to look at Google here, as they seem to be slighlty more insidious in the way they’re trying to take over your internet experience – but as with enterprise software, natural market forces will prevail and keep the Web multi-vendor. Ultimately, Google aren’t the best at everything they do. Picasa gets its ass whumped by Flickr, for example.

(2) My second point is kind of following on with my gripe about consolidation. Apart from the fact that there are several other major software vendors who I think will escape being subsumed into the big four (Symantec/Veritas, RedHat, Apple, maybe Sun to name a few), I think the SOA trend will only continue. Decentralised software models that rely on the internet will mean, more than ever before, that small vendors can make tiny, hyperfunctional applications/services which are standards based and be happy with an independent, niche existence – but making the money in volume… Can’t think of any examples of this at the moment, unfortunately Yahoo’s acquisitions of Flickr and Delicious shows what happens when you get too big, but I still think there’s a threshold…

Anyway, that’s some pretty heavy thinking for a Friday night. Viva Web 2.0. ‘Nuff Said.