Acquisition and collaboration pools expertise
Business-to- Business (B2B) brands contended for leadership in the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things. Making iterative advances, they competed (and increasingly collaborated) with business-to-consumer (B2C) technology brands. Lessons learned from these encounters with consumer-driven brands may have helped B2B brands sharpen their marketing agility.
Although the B2B technology brands have not completed their transformation to cloud-based operations and the large legacy brands continue to be challenged by nimble, narrowly focused startups, years of strategic redirection and major investment began to pay off. In contrast to last year, every B2B brand ranked in the BrandZ™ Technology Top 20 increased in value, some of them substantially.
HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) appears in the ranking for the first time, having completed its first year as a corporate entity created when Hewlett-Packard split the company into two parts, with HP Inc. set up to handle the legacy businesses of PCs and printers, while HPE was spun off to focus more narrowly on servers, storage, networking, and consultation. The change positions HPE to better confront the disruptive changes in information technology.
Brands attempted to expand their reach or expertise though acquisition and collaboration. In the largest acquisition in its 42-year history, Microsoft bought LinkedIn, the business networking brand. Its acquisition of LinkedIn strengthens both brands in B2B, enabling Microsoft to include LinkedIn social network features in some of its products, such as Microsoft Outlook and Office.
Under its new management, Microsoft has improved its technology with a versatile group of devices like its Surface Pro, a laptop with a touchscreen that detaches to become a freestanding tablet. The device includes a stylus for taking notes or sketching.
Acquisitions and collaborations
In an example of collaboration, IBM and Salesforce planned to share their AI technologies, increasing the effectiveness of both companies by joining the learning abilities of IBM’s Watson with the cloud customer-management tools of Salesforce.
IBM also formed a partnership with Cisco to create workplace tools that combine the cognitive computing of Watson with Cisco’s cloud-based workplace tools like WebEx. Cisco, the brand best known for supplying all the routers and switches that make the internet work, is investing heavily on the Internet of Things, purchasing Jasper Technologies, a company that creates software for managing connected devices.
Although Intel still depended on its traditional chip business for much of its revenue, the brand also focused attention on four other growth areas: 5G, AI, driverless cars, and VR, specifically in sports and entertainment. Intel bet heavily on driverless cars with the purchase of Mobileye, an Israeli maker of sensors and cameras used for navigating driverless cars. Intel also has a relationship with BMW.
Having been dominant in PCs, Intel raised its voice in other technology sectors, for example by providing the technical wizardry behind a memorable Super Bowl halftime performance. In that instance, Intel demonstrated its drone technology with a glittering image of an American flag hovering in the sky as Lady Gaga arrived on stage.
With the acquisition of NetSuite, Oracle, a leader in financial databases, strengthened its cloud computing offer. NetSuite primarily focuses on small business and is expected to provide Oracle with greater access to that market, where it faces rival Salesforce. NetSuite should benefit from Oracle’s scale.
SAP aligned with Microsoft. The arrangement enables the SAP HANA databases to run on Microsoft’s Azure cloud and SAP software to incorporate Microsoft Office 365. The SAP HANA databases use in-memory computing that enables users to access data more quickly than on relational databases.