Editorial: I Own You, You Own Me.

The urge to merge is on. Never before has our industry seen the level of acquisitions, alliances, partnerships, collaborations, agreements and "intellectual capital" grabbings than now.

Computer Associates is out in front with the single largest purchase so far, with its $3.5 billion acquisition of PLATINUM technologies International… although, I wouldn’t pop any corks until the ink is dried on this one. This all follows PLATINUM’s own acquisition of MEMCO, an Israeli-based security software supplier.

Hummingbird, in the past several weeks has signed an agreement to acquire all rights to Financial Frameworks from Context. It then announced the acquisition of Leonard’s Logic SA, makers of Genio, a data transformation and exchange tool. The total purchase price, payable in cash, is approximately $20.4 million. Finally, it will acquire PC DOCS Group, making it a wholly owned subsidiary.

Following at a close second with two was BMC’s mergers with both New Dimension Software ($650 million) and Boole & Babbage. And Sterling’s cash tender offer for "all outstanding shares of common stock of Interlink Computer Sciences at $7 per share, is being made pursuant to the previously announced Merger Agreement between Sterling Software and Interlink." If you can follow that one?

Compaq Computer and Polaris Communications partnered to provide direct channel connections between Compaq NonStop Computers and IBM mainframes. While Pilot Network Services, Sun Microsystems and Cisco Systems entered a joint development alliance to establish secure extranet connections via WANs.

IBM went shopping as well. Its Global Services of Canada purchased Princeton Softech’s Ager 2000 financial apps. And following its $16 billion OEM deal with Dell, IBM entered a five-year, $3 billion alliance with EMC, squashing any real storage system competition between the two long-time rivals.

In addition to acquisitions, the old-fashioned partnership abounds. IBM and Sony agreed to offer a solution for management of digital content and intellectual assets within broadcast and post-production facilities, and studios.

Compaq Computer and Lucent Technologies linked to provide unified messaging abilities; meanwhile, Lucent will acquire Mosaix, a third-tier player.

HP bucked the trend by splitting the company into two separate, but far-from-equal, companies: the Computer and Imaging business, and the Measurement and Testing business. HP then committed to invest $100 million over three years on BEA technology as part of HP’s attempt to reposition itself as an e-commerce provider.

Of course, everyone involved is always thrilled. The acquired are thrilled to become "a part of the family." And the acquirer is more thrilled to get the talent. We all know what this trend means for the companies involved; but what does it mean for end users? Think this is leading to a "monopoly" diatribe? Think again.

For the past decade, there’s been at least three "major paradigm shifts" per year that I have been advised were coming. Maybe one out of those 30 predictions actually happened. However, I believe this trend of mergers is a preface to a real shift that users can expect to take advantage of in the coming two-to-five years.

Although today’s happenings may limit competition, it doesn’t eliminate it. In fact, it allows for less expensive product development with shorter cycles and expanded possibilities. Prices will probably rise, especially in maintenance and service; but, so will integration capabilities. And finger pointing and times to install and receive support will go down. Face it. The standards this industry has cried for will have a price tag. So be careful what you wish for.

Enterprise Systems Journal has been busy doing a little acquiring of area talent itself. ESJ welcomes Assistant Editor Carolyn Majewski (majewskicj@esj.com). "We are very pleased Carolyn is joining the ESJ family," says Managing Editor Tom Schaffner. "Carolyn’s editing ability, coupled with ESJ’s existing core strengths, allows us to offer readers an extraordinary, unique, powerful ‘best-in-class’ robust, cost-effective publication the likes of which has never before been seen. Net-net, at the end of the day, it’s really a ‘win-win-win-win’ opportunity."