I was minding my own business yesterday when the rumors started to hit the wires that HP CEO Leo Apotheker was going to flush his mobile business, spin off or sell the PC business and bet the HP farm on information management by acquiring Autonomy. Since the Palm acquisition has been a flop and only 4 or 5 people have purchased the new HP tablet, it was no shock that Leo was announcing that he was getting out of a business that was basically already dead (please note that there is probably some value in the mobile IP but almost no value in the business). And, with dwindling margins in the PC business in the post PC era, it was also no shock that Leo decided to follow IBM and flush Compaq. However, I had to do a double take on his announcement that he was going to acquire Autonomy. My first thought was that this was a brilliant move.
Anyone that reads this blog and follows my Twitter account (eDiscoveryGroup) knows that I have been very vocal that the new IT paradigm is information management/governance and eDiscovery in the cloud. And, that the big IT providers that positioned themselves to quickly take advantage of this paradigm shift were going to be the big winners. IBM has already made a move in this direction. And, it was really interesting and made absolute sense to see that Leo was now going to follow. But then, the name Autonomy jumped right off the screen! Wow, why Autonomy?
For those of us that have been in the information governance and eDiscovery market for any amount of time knows that Autonomy is the big gorilla on the block and that all of the rest of the vendors are second tier and lower. They (Autonomy) have been building up their war chest of technology and clients for years and therefore tout the most terabytes of data stored, the largest client base, the most revenue and the list of most and biggest just goes on.
However, they also have what some would refer to as a boat anchor called the Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL) which has created one of the most interesting love hate relationships in the IT industry. It has historically been a leading edge solution, seems to work really well within the enterprise and therefore is one of the only options available for many within the global 1000 for massive information management. However, most clients will tell you that its too expensive, cumbersome, hard to maintain and eats up resources. Kinda reminds us all of Oracle!!
Autonomy has also not done a very good job of integrating all of the technologies that have purchased over the years and I am sure that it has made for some interesting discussions with clients in regards to how to migrate data back and forth between these technology platforms. Probably made for some really good service and consulting contracts.
Next, although Autonomy has some interesting cloud based offerings and does in fact have lots of data being hosted and processed in the cloud, it is a bit of stretch to say that they are a leading edge cloud technology vendor. And, although they also have some interesting search technology. It is by no means leading edge.
Further, Autonomy has gained a reputation of over selling and committing and under delivering. This has all added up to a very frustrated client base and a very wary list of prospects. As a result, smaller vendors with less expensive and technically agile and focused solutions such as Nuix out of Australia have been able to eat away at Autonomy’s market share (Huron Replaces Autonomy with Nuix). And, there are several other players in the information governance and eDiscovery market that also have much better and more focused and agile platforms than Autonomy, including, CaseCentral, DigitalReef and StoredIQ (please note that I realize that I have not listed every single vendor that can successfully compete with Autonomy). So, even with the HP acquisition, I would suspect that the trend of Autonomy losing installed base will continue.
As such, even though Leo in on the right track, he is going to have his hands full with the baggage that Autonomy brings with them.
However, all of this being said, I am not sure which technology provider that HP could have purchased, instead of Autonomy, that would have the “juice” to have an immediate and potentially long term impact on the success or failure of Leo, his strategy and ultimately HP. And, it is very rewarding for all of us in the information governance and eDiscovery markets to have a respected CEO like Leo and a company like HP basically validate your market.
And, I have faith the Leo and his team is going to be able to eventually figure out what they have purchased, leverage the good stuff and flush the bad. For the sake of the stockholder’s and to a certain degree for the health of the IT industry in general, let’s hope that he is successful.
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