Monday, March 14, 2005

The rise of the small competitor

I remember seeing my first Macintosh, nearly 25 years ago. I was told it would transform the publishing industry, giving everyone the power to create their own publications. As a writer and would be editor, I was intrigued. But it quickly became apparent that putting words and graphics on paper was the smallest part of being a publisher. In the end, while the technology did allow more product to flood the market, most of it couldn't compete with the established material.

Not too many years ago, we saw the same thing happen with audio/video software on PCs. Did it make everyone a film or radio star? No. Although some of our urban centers are starting to get pretty noisy with all the sampling and rapping going on.

Generally speaking, technology alone is not enough to overturn existing markets and change the balance of power shared among entrenched competitors. It is just one element of an overall competitive strategy.

But what about when the business in question is a technology developer?

Web services and Service Oriented Architecture have definitely made it easier for smaller players to build impressive platforms. Just two cases in point include Qvault and Vuecentric.

Qvault came on the scene to provide Web status messaging that Calyx had yet to build into its Point loan origination system. It has since branched outward and will soon be announcing new functionality for another part of the market, according to managing partner Rob Cecil.

Jorge Sauri, CEO of Vuecentric is set to announce special pricing for his company's MortgageDashboard product today. He's hoping that by letting companies with up to 10 loan officers try out the Web-based loan origination and processing system for $99 a month, they'll be hooked. He may be right. The MortgageDashboard solution is easy to use and robust, with a built-in product and pricing engine and the BundleOne electronic partner networking tool. Individual loan officers can sign up to use the system for $249 a year (part of their take on a single deal).

If you're a publisher or a record producer, you probably shouldn't worry too much about the new versions of Quark Xpress or Pro Tools. Hollywood sure doesn't seem worried about the functionality built into Final Cut Pro. But if you're a big mortgage technology provider with a lot of overhead and an aging infrastructure, you better check the wall for writing.

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