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Originally published 5 January 2006
There is basically two ways that technical marketplaces are led—by the vendor or the consumer.
A vendor-led marketplace is a marketplace led by a vendor and a product. Some vendor-led marketplaces have been very successful. In the 1970’s IBM led the database management system (DBMS) marketplace with their IMS product. There were many other DBMS competitors back then and their products included IDMS, Total and Adabas.
A vendor-led marketplace is one where the vendor creates a product, and then educates the marketplace about the product’s viability and usability. If the vendor has properly gauged the marketplace (as IBM did with its IMS product line), then the vendor can potentially gain a significant market share. Microsoft did the same thing with its operating system for the desktop. They put the product into the marketplace and it sold. Obviously, one company in a vendor-led marketplace can gain a dominant market share.
Some vendor-led marketplaces, however, have not been successful. Does anyone remember the CASE marketplace? And where is CASE today? Does anyone remember the EIS marketplace? How about the AI marketplace? At best, these vendor-led marketplaces have mutated into other products and marketplaces today.
There are also vendor-led marketplaces where the early pioneer and market leader is supplanted by another vendor for a variety of reasons. While many of you may not remember Visicalc, you have probably heard of Lotus. Although Visicalc led the marketplace initially, Lotus captured the largest market share. Also, just because a vendor leads a marketplace is no guarantee that the marketplace will be successful.
Unlike a vendor-led marketplace, a consumer-led marketplace is one where consumer demand grows and vendors respond. Vendors are in a reactive stance in a consumer-led marketplace. The data warehouse is one example of a consumer-led marketplace. Prior to the data warehouse, all DBMS vendors believed that a single database should serve all purposes.
Interestingly, the most vocal DBMS vendors’ advocates are silent today. Some of these vendors, in fact, are now selling the most in data warehousing technology. In the beginning of data warehousing, though, DBMS vendors did everything they could NOT to advocate or support a data warehouse. (As fate would have it, there was a man who worked for a database company that said “There is no future in data warehousing.” Six months later he left his database company to work as a data warehouse consultant.)
In a consumer-led marketplace the consumer uses whatever technology is available and changes it to suit his or her purposes, regardless of the support of the vendor. After enough consumers have recognized the technology, the vendor follows (or is forced to follow) the consumer’s demands.
The world of unstructured data is a consumer-led marketplace. The vendors that are in this space are off on a tangent, building systems of questionable value and even more questionable architecture. But the demand for solid, architecturally sound unstructured systems grows daily in various ways. Many experts predict that there will be a breakout technology, which will help corporations harness unstructured data. They also believe that the unstructured marketplace will ultimately become a consumer-driven marketplace.
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