Even though Im a big fan of competition, Im anxious for consolidation to happen among developers of wireless-enabling products for the enterprise. Im not entirely sure why more of them havent gone out of business or combined, especially given how many exist and how difficult it is to win investment dollars today.
Neither the market downturn nor growth in the space has really winnowed the number of wireless data software companies. A couple have gone under and a few have merged. Snaz Commerce Solutions, which offered mobile commerce solutions including a mobile wallet, recently closed its doors. HiddenMind Technology and AnyDevice merged. But there have been so few casualties that people are still talking about NetMorfs demise, and that happened back in March.
Its possible that lots of companies with mobile data offerings have actually gone under, but so many of them are small and new ones pop up so frequently that perhaps their failures have escaped notice. Or maybe theyre so small that they once secured large investments that can support their low overheads for some time.
Its odd that no company has really stepped ahead as a clear leader or served as a consolidator. Some small vendors have introduced products that enable wireless access to information stored on databases from the major suppliers, but few offer end-to-end packages. Its a wonder that more havent tried to emerge as leaders by merging or acquiring others to build a complete solution.
The big database vendors are enabling remote wireless access, but those solutions are only compatible with their databases. Ive been waiting for some of them to start buying smaller vendors — which could probably be done on the cheap these days — rather than build solutions themselves.
But one of the most baffling aspects of these numerous suppliers is that its not often clear what makes one different from the other. They all say that theyre the only one thats compatible with many different database products and the only one thats completely technology- and device-agnostic. If theyre really all the same, how can they all be surviving?
Some companies have decided to focus on certain vertical markets, which is a good way to differentiate themselves. It will be key, however, for each of these development companies to win enough customers to stay alive, and its not yet clear how many is enough. Ironically, marquee-name clients dont guarantee success. Snaz, for example, claimed AT&T, Palm, Nextel Communications and Alltel as customers. Soon, hopefully, a couple of these companies will hit the nail on the head and develop ideal products that will set them apart from the rest. Then well start to see a focusing of the market and a natural weeding out of the weak.