Attivio vs Sinequa: Who Does What?

September 12, 2012

When I was assembling the Attivio company profile for IDC (, I noted a catchphrase conflict. I ran the query “unified information access” and got a hit on Wikipedia. The phrase seems to have been coined by Sue Feldman, an IDC expert in search. The phrase “unified information access” is also strongly linked to Attivio within a Google search results list. In our research for the IDC Attivio profile, Attivio had made extensive use of the phrase for several years.

What was interesting was that we noticed that Sinequa, a vendor of enterprise search technology, was using the same phrase. You can see Sinequa’s use of the phrase in the banner of the Sinequa Web site.

Other companies are using the phrase as well; for example, BA-Insight, Endeca, ExaleadMarkLogic, PerfectSearch, and Palantir.

What is the value of a phrase if a number of vendors use it to describe what their systems deliver? Does this create confusion? Can Attivio’s strong grip on the phrase be eroded? Like “search enabled applications,” a phrase can lose its meaning when a number of companies use it. The words “search,” “information,” “big data,” “taxonomy,” and “semantics” have become almost impossible to define. Marketers “assume” that the words are understood by the reader or listener. Are they?

Search and content processing vendors continue to “look alike.” Little wonder. Each company seems to be piggybacking on other wordsmiths’ positioning ideas. Unlike Apple Samsung, there is no physical product involved. The words, therefore, are probably more easily repurposed and shaped. Does this help one understand what a company’s products actually do?

My view is that search, analytics, and content processing vendors are repeating the marketing approach which helped make traditional enterprise search vendors into almost identical systems.

Are the systems identical? In my experience, the systems are quite different, but licensees do not know what difference is meaningful until the license deal has been signed and the license fee paid. Is differentiation no longer important? I thought a unique selling proposition was important, but with vendors recycling terminology, perhaps the USP is old school, and, therefore, irrelevant.

Stephen E Arnold, September 12, 2012

Sponsored by Augmentext


2 Responses to “Attivio vs Sinequa: Who Does What?”

  1. jeanrond on September 13th, 2012 8:42 am

    Dear Stephen,

    I confirm that we took the term “Unified Information Access” from Sue. Why? Because the “Enterprise Search” market has been defined by Gartner as a commoditized market with projects below 100K$. Clearly, that is not our Search market – and apparently not that of some of our competitors.
    I had suggested to Sue that she assembles all of us around a table such that we could agree on a name and a description of the new market. The approach was perhaps considered indecent by our competitors: no one wanted to go through with the exercise. But we do seem to agree on Susan’s name – which she coined for want of a better one.
    Do we want to appear all alike? No! But we need to say to our customers and prospects that we are no longer just in the “Old Enterprise Search market” – and that value creation for them and for us is an order of magnitude higher in the “New Search Market” that we call “Unified Information Access market”.

    Best regards
    Hans-Josef Jeanrond
    VP Marketing Sinequa

  2. Sue Feldman on September 13th, 2012 10:11 am

    When we coined the phrase, “unified information access” several years ago, our purpose was to describe a new phenomenon–an architecture that took the best of both search and BI features. The phrase is meant to describe a new category of information access systems that IDC sees great demand for. The systems allow customers to unite access to multiple types and sources of BOTH structured and unstructured information. This architecture enables ad hoc access to structured data, as search does, but it also produces BI-like reports. Users of these systems refer to their ability to create “instant data warehouses” that are not dependent on their IT departments creating a new view. We believe that this wave of new information system will replace large enterprise search applications because of their ability to provide a single view across all of their information–a crying need in the marketplace.

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