Here is the low-down:
IBM – the true leader of the IT industry and the smartest of the big five suppliers. Long term survivor.
HP – maybe the dumbest of the big five – they did buy Autonomy just as it was starting to over-ripen, after all. Likely to limp along unless senior management become imaginative (unlikely).
Oracle – the sales and marketing whiz-kid of the IT industry. Products are generally mediocre, but no-one seems to care. As long as superior sales and marketing trump superior product Oracle will continue to do well.
Microsoft – an unimaginative and fairly vicious (if reports on its management practices are to be believed – see Forbes) organization that appeals to technicians, but has no idea how to communicate with large businesses. Slowly pecked to death on all sides.
SAP – a dull company in the main appealing to dull business administrators. Along with Oracle it provides one of the world’s largest executive recruitment clubs – so it’s always going to be popular.
Out of these five only IBM has realised that businesses are becoming more interested in information exploitation than the traditional obsession with process automation. It’s a sea-change that the suppliers of process oriented solutions (Oracle, SAP) just do not understand. HP is trying to cobble some sort of big data/analytics offering together, but it looks like it’s been produced by a set of MBAs who are new to the IT industry. Of course it may work, but it seems unlikely.
Microsoft has enjoyed a monopolistic position on the desktop for so long that it has become sort of stupid. It could be doing a lot more on analytics/big data, but undoubtedly it will enter the party late (as always) and be trumped by hungrier, more innovative suppliers.