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SAS warns rival SPSS' users to expect price bump, vendor lock-in after IBM buy

SAS warns rival SPSS' users to expect price bump, vendor lock-in after IBM buy

War of words heats up as IBM ramps up in BI

Pure-play business intelligence (BI) vendor SAS Institute Inc. says it is unworried by IBM's $1.2 billion purchase of rival SPSS Inc. on Tuesday.

Rather, customers of SPSS' predictive analytics software are the ones that should be worried, IBM says.

"You need to ask yourself: Will my maintenance rates go up? Will I get a good customer experience? What will happen to innovation with my products?" Jim Davis, chief marketing officer at SAS, told Computerworld on Tuesday after the IBM announcement.

"I understand the value of this deal for the larger vendor. But I question the value of this for the customer," Davis said. "I don't think an IT organization would want to put all of their eggs in one basket."

Driving people to one provider is IBM's goal, Technology Business Research (TBR) analyst Allan Krans wrote today. "TBR expects the SPSS portfolio to be bundled and cross-sold throughout IBM's organization to generate software revenue and services opportunities by leveraging the SPSS brand," he wrote. The "value lies in the cross-sell."

A $2.2 billion-a-year privately-held company, SAS is the fourth-largest vendor in the global business analytics software market, behind Oracle Corp., SAP AG and IBM, says says IDC Corp.

SAS is particularly strong in the small-but-key market for advanced analytic tools. In that market, SAS made $506 million in 2008, giving it a dominant 33.2% market share, says IDC.

SPSS had 14.3% of the market, far ahead of number three Microsoft with just 1.7% share.

IBM has made great recent strides in the business analytics market through a number of acquisitions, the largest being the $5 billion buy of Cognos Inc. in 2007.

SPSS fills a glaring hole in IBM's Information-On-Demand lineup: its lack of product in the high-end predictive analytics space.

But Davis says that completing a top-to-bottom stack "only says that the pieces and parts can talk together. It does not solve a business problem."

By contrast, SAS has a lineup of more than 100 products ready to roll out for specific needs or industries, which can help firms get a return on their investment faster, Davis says.

"Our discussions are more like, 'You give me $1 million, and I'll give you $10 million back,'" he said.

SAS can deliver because it is not overstretched, says Davis. "We focus on the decision support system (DSS) space. This is one of the 500 things that IBM does," he said.

Asked if SAS could be acquired as mergers and acquisitions simmer in the BI space, Davis said "there is no question that there are people who are very interested in SAS. But there are no active discussions and no active talk about us being acquired."


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