- Emerging – what every startup is. They don’t know what they will be when they grow up but that’s okay. This is where our most exciting technology comes from. Eventually, however, they will have to grow up and become something else or getting eaten but someone else.
- Parts Supplier – you make parts for other people. Like headlights or NICs. Great work, especially if you spread it out amongst a lot of companies. The goal of a Xyratex. Qlogic, or an Atto for that matter is to be a supplier to as many people as possible and build something of an aftermarket for your components. Think Cummings (they make engines).
- R&D Shop – companies that produce only intellectual property. You see this in Pharma and semiconductors but most computer tech companies want to control their R&D. If a big company sees something it likes in another company, they just buy it.
- Outsourced Services – who doesn’t outsource call centers and manufacturing these days? Most of the services industry falls into this category. It’s the business process equivalent of a parts supplier.
- Specialty Supplier – the big companies can’t make everything. High performance or special purpose products can’t be produced in enough volume for the big companies to be interested. We used to have more of these in the hardware industry. SGI was one and sort of still is. Alienware certainly was but was bought. Software is rife with specialty companies. Software can get away with it because they have almost no recurring costs. It’s all R&D and no inventory. What is important is that these companies have something that is very important to a small number of people but enough people to sustain the company. They are unique but have demand.
- Conglomerate – a set of loosely related companies. Some are completely unrelated like GE (aircraft engines and broadcast media?). EMC looks more like a conglomerate than anything else. You can try and put a “Data Management” wrapper around them but RSA, EMC storage, Documentum, and VmWare are only loosely connected in the marketplace. Conglomerates manage companies or divisions like a portfolio. They diversify to guard against downturns. Storage is down? That’s okay because security is up and so on. Google is looking more like a conglomerate every day. And when the need growth they buy some other company in a different space than where they are now.
- Solution Supplier – soup to nuts in a particular market. HP can provide you everything from mobile devices to laptops to storage to servers. Oracle and IBM can also provide you with almost a whole solution. For these companies, it’s a matter of defining your boundaries. Is is business hardware to business software like Oracle? Maybe it’s all software from infrastructure to desktops to game systems like Microsoft. It’s about delivering a complete end-user solution. When you need more growth, you push out the boundaries.
Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.