There have been two high-drama tech strategy faceoffs in recent times: HP's contested acquisition of Compaq and SAP's decision to grow organically versus Oracle's acquisitive route. Just for the record, I called both of these wrong, believing that HP should stick to it's knitting and that Oracle was buying itself more trouble than growth.
In both cases, it turned out that treating the tech world as a maturing market ripe for consolidation was the right approach. HP has profited well by its Compaq acquisition, while Oracle has outpaced SAP thanks to its string of acquisitions.
As a board member of Reportive, I presented to SAP at the beginning of the year and were told that SAP had more than six internal business intelligence reporting products already. Clearly SAP is not lacking for BI technology. Instead, they are following Oracle's lead by acquiring companies with related technologies they can cross sell.
The challenge is that Oracle has Chuck Phillips, a former Morgan Stanley tech analyst superstar (fun fact: his phone number at Morgan was 1-800-MR CHUCK). Chuck has had the enterprise software acquisition market mostly to himself for the last four years and has made the most of it by cherry-picking his acquisitions, including Hyperion and Siebel Analytics in the BI space.
Oracle has also had four years to learn the difficult art of post-merger integration. Any bets on how well the integration between a stodgy German company and an arrogant French company will go?
Earlier this year, SAP politics drove away their internal technology wizard, Shai Aggassi. This effectively eliminated any possibility that their grow from within strategy would work.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in this case, it is flattery that is likely to cost SAP dearly to the benefit of Oracle.
ps. there are several good ZDNet articls on this from Josh Greenbaum, Dennis Howlett and Dan Farber