I had lunch a couple of months back with David Lacey, one of the thought leaders of the Jericho Forum, (who I STILL think have the right idea, in case anyone was wondering). We talked about literally hundreds of different topics, but one which has stuck in my mind was about how good companies often lose out to not-as-good companies.
Hands up who remembers Dr. Solomon? Arguably the best anti-virus of its day, 10 years ago, this neat little tool was as cool as digital watches had been 10 years previously, and on the way up. Today, type Dr. Solomon into Google, and you get McAfee. They used to fight like cats and dogs, but McAfee continues on - did they maybe acquire them?
And who is the biggest of them all? Well, it's Symantec, the fourth largest software company in the world, who just spent a whopping $785m on MessageLabs in the middle of the biggest economic downturn in 80 years. Symantec, who previously bought Vontu, Veritas, Norton, etc... deep pockets, but I'm not 100% convinced it has bought all the best toys, just the shiniest.
And in this game, that seems to be what counts. I commented last week about the RSA and InfoSec shows not being what they used to be. I like nurses' uniforms as much as the next man, but it isn't security. The big stands go for 10s of thousands of pounds, and I can't help feeling we're losing out on some great ideas, more so as we hit recession head on.
It's time to batten down the hatches for everyone, so I wonder how this will affect further acquisitions? Sadly I think we will see some good little companies being snapped up for less than they're worth. Happily I think we'll see more development taken in-house, and more of these developers looking for safer permanent jobs. Maybe Symantec will come up with some ideas of their own instead of buying up all the other good ones?