For about 3 seconds last year, I thought that there were only three sustainable Internet companies: Commerce One, Ariba and i2, not necessarily in that order. That was a foolish 3 seconds. At the time, I was convinced that integration was the key to building the Internet economy. No matter how many fads came and vanished and no matter how many mergers and acquisitions took place, there would always be a need to connect applications and business processes.
This is essentially what each of these companies does, although each had a different starting point. Clearly, the world is not all about integration now. Its more about survival. Suffice it to say that i2, Ariba and Commerce One are all in the dumps, each missing earnings expectations fairly dramatically.
The reason for the misses, each company has explained, is theres been a significant drop in IT spending. My no-hype translation is that IT actually has been overspending for the past four years, trying to outspend imaginary competitors; competing with the Joneses, even though they dont know them; and creating a Cold War environment in which whoever remains standing is the ultimate superpower.
Today, were simply back in a state of normalcy. IT spending now seems more strategic than tactical. Of course, IT has always thought it was doing strategic things by paying out the wazoo to do major BPR (business process re-engineering) work on systems to get ready for the next wave. That kind of thinking didnt work in the original days of BPR computer-assisted software engineering and total quality management, and it isnt working now in the post-apocalyptic Internet days environment.
At this time, the only tactical spending should be to secure the enterprise because layoffs may produce disgruntled employees who want revenge on the rakish CEOs, who seem to make more money than their companies do.
But I digress. As for the next 3 seconds, hmm. What could be next? Ill bet on top storage manufacturers, security vendors and the few companies that emerge from the optical networking doldrums.