Whether technical readers care about what the analysts say is always a toss-up. But all the big vendors in each market are always very concerned about how market analysts such as Gartner, IDC, Aberdeen, Forrester, Meta, and Giga rank them above raw revenue numbers. Analysts' perspectives influence executive and middle-management IT decisions, and those decisions define which skills are in demand in the job market as a whole and for individual employers. Thus, through this “trickle-down effect," analysts affect technical readers, so I'm always interested in what the analysts find interesting.

In July, IDC analysts Dan Vesset and Brian McDonough released the competitive analysis of Worldwide Business Intelligence Tools 2005 Vendor Shares. The report succinctly assesses the business intelligence (BI) market in general and specifically where individual vendors fall in the market-share rankings. You can purchase the report for $3500 on the IDC Web site (http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=202603). Or, because we're all friends, I'll give you the inside track: Microsoft is handing out the report for free at http://www.microsoft.com/bi/IDCvendorshare2005.mspx.

The fact that Microsoft has licensed the report and offers it for free tells you that things look good for the company in the BI market. The Microsoft download page includes a great summary of Vesset’s more detailed assessment in the report: "Microsoft's BI Tools revenue growth in 2005 was more than 25 percent, growing at more than twice the rate of the overall market. Microsoft has seen strong growth over the past several years as it has expanded and enhanced its database-embedded BI features and combined them with related tools such as data integration. Microsoft's impact on the BI tools market cannot be overemphasized. This impact will mark an evolutionary change that has been put into motion by the database vendors overall and will reshape the BI tools market over the next 15 years."

Vesset’s final comment about reshaping the BI-tools market over the next 15 years is quite telling because, as he explains, IDC research has identified that the BI market moves in 15-year cycles. The report defines these periods as 1975-1990, 1990-2005, and 2005-2020, which clearly makes Microsoft the BI-tools pacesetter in the current cycle.

So whether you read the entire IDC report or have already caught my drift, you realize that, according to the analysts, Microsoft BI skills will continue to be a good career bet.