UPDATED – IBM’s recent move to purchase SPSS has been pegged as an attempt to improve its analytical software portfolio. It is that.
But like other IBM purchases, it is also about installed base. Among a host of pretenders, SPSS is a real software company–but it became a real software company by delivering and successfully updating products customer boughts over many years.
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It did just enough research and development (and acquisitions) over the years to have a cool story now that analytical software is hot. It also stuck to its knitting over many years when coolness advisors would have led it into relational data stores, OLTP, and so on.
SPSS is a good fit for IBM, which continues to quietly pack up a lot of software companies that are older than startups, chock full of customers, and open to new technology and, in many cases, technology standards. Count Telelogic and ILOG among them. These acquisitions further thin out the ranks of mid-tier software companies–ones that are neither big nor small. Some days it seems like the future of software companies is one of the very big and the very small.