I read an interesting blog article by Austin Merrit of Software advice with the above title. It is an interesting article and makes many valid points but I have a slightly different take.
1) What is the definition of Horizontal Software?
Most software publishers if not all now provide extended solutions/modules for specific industries. So the core system may not have been designed for a specific industry but the extended solutions are. Plus Computer Solutions is a Sage 300 (formerly Accpac) reseller and Sage and BAASS Businesss Solutions have vertical solutions for the distribution, service, manufacturing, retail, Not for profit, etc industries. The core Sage 300 modules might be consider at horizontal solution as they were initially not developed for one specific industry but for many different industries. This has created a great deal of functionality in the application that allows the application to be useful in many different environments. In fact the core modules have been developed to such an extent that they are usually far more functional than the core of a vertical software solution. We usually find that our General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable and Business Intelligence modules are far more comprehensive than any vertical software solution.
2) Is Stand alone software the same as Horizontal software?
In my opinion Stand alone software is simply a piece of software that does not integrate to any other application. Stand alone software is often designed specifically for a vertical industry. I would say as a reseller we see clients and prospects using vertical invoicing, customer management, estimating and quoting, time and billing systems that were designed for there industries but do not integrate easily to back office systems more often than a stand alone horizontal system.
3) Software Vendors are verticalizing there solutions.
Many of the major players he mentions are but many are not. In reality they are simply marketing to industries where there solutions have a strong presence. In some cases the solution may be strong in that vertical industry but often we find that it is just a perception issue and the product often does not meet the mustard test when compared to a non vertical solution.
In summary I personally do not think horizontal solutions are dead nor do I think they will ever die. They will just be enhanced and modified to meet the needs of vertical industries or extensive marketing to industries they are well suited to will be increased. In that sense the name horizontal solutions may disappear but some of the best vertical solutions are and will be built on the foundation of a horizontal solution. Alternatively I do think that stand alone solutions are dying a slow death and we will eventually find more and more software developers will build solutions on common platforms so that integration will become less of an issue.