How to Get Acquired (or Spurned) by Google

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-05-30 Print this article Print


Software as a service and business intelligence provider Panorama Software is looking to get acquired by Google, and the company is providing an interesting lesson in how to position itself for an offer.

Why would Google want Panorama? Only because it would provide a cloud-based alternative to Microsoft's BI capabilities. Panorama's attempt to get in bed with Google will either succeed or backfire.

During a briefing this week with Oudi Antebi, Panorama's vice president of marketing and strategy, Antebi made a point to discuss how the company tailored its software to work with Google Apps.

The company in March unveiled Panorama Analytics for Google Docs, which basically allows users of the spreadsheets in Google Docs to inject BI capabilities to derive more useful information about their work.

One month later, Panorama added support for Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services for its Analytics for Google Docs product, noting in a statement: "This is the first of what will be many enhancements and new functionalities that Panorama will roll out for Google Docs in the next few months."

Translation: We like working with Google, and Google likes working with us, too.

By letting its users access SQL Server Analysis Services through its Panorama Analytics for Google Docs software, Panorama is basically slapping Microsoft in the face with one hand and shaking Google's hand with the other.

The irony is that the very code that Panorama spurns--SQL Server Analysis Services--was once Panorama's own, and it was sold to Microsoft in 1996.

Now Panorama is looking for a new suitor for its SAAS services; the company is launching PowerApps in beta next week, basically a complete OLAP (online analytical processing) engine in the cloud that is tailored to work with Google Docs.

Forrester Research's Boris Evelson told Google Watch today: "If Google decides to get into BI big time, it's a perfect start for them."

Let's chart the history. Despite Microsoft's claims to the contrary, Antebi said Microsoft was nervous when it announced its Panorama Analytics for Google Docs because it would forge a new competitive front between Google Apps and Microsoft SQL Server.

Antebi explained the evolution of Microsoft's agita: "When we announced the first release [Panorama Analytics for Google Docs], we said that as part of our strategy we have an engine that powers the analytics and that one day we might open it up. Just by hinting, Microsoft became concerned, which made us understand that we had something big in our hands."

"[PowerApps] in theory can be an alternative for customers or ISVs from choosing Microsoft's OLAP technology." Translation: If Google or someone were to buy us, they would be positioned to take share from Microsoft in the evolving SAAS market.

Why is it "big?" For the moment, it's not, really. Yet PowerApps can get bigger quickly in terms of adoption and importance.

PowerApps is a SAAS-based OLAP engine, and no one in the market has really cracked that nut yet. PowerApps can get bigger quickly because Google, Microsoft and several other vendors are wending their way through the cloud-computing market, building or buying components that will put software services online for businesses and consumers.

Evelson said: "Panorama's role in PowerApps is a tiny part of their business, so Google would have to figure out what to do (support, enhancements, etc.) with the rest of the Panorama clients that use NovaView [the company's existing BI suite]. But obviously it's a drop in the bucket for Google, so it's not impossible that this might happen."

With its market positioning, Panorama is clearly endearing itself to Google, right? Maybe. It could also be annoying Google with its big 'Buy Me' sign, which all but blazes in red neon letters. Google, like most companies who have reached its size, scope and brand, tends to like to go about its acquisitions quietly.

Google is mum for now. Allowing time for PowerApps to gain traction, we may find out before the end of the year whether Panorama is going to join Google or get left to vie for BI market-share-- versus Microsoft and the other seasoned BI specialists.

Even if Google bought Panorama, carving out a new niche in online BI would be a challenge, but clearly Panorama is better off with Google than without.
Final case from Antebi: "No. 1, Google is endorsing this cloud computing strategy. They're the father or the mother. Some people say that is the father. No. 2, PowerApps is a very good platform to extend what we're doing with Google Docs to do more things with Google Apps because we can connect to more data sources."

Final question from Google Watch: Are Panorama and Google in talks that would lead to, say, a Panorama PowerApps by Google offering? "I can't really comment on this," Antebi said, laughing. |

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