Maintenance revenue can be so seductive that software innovation takes a back seat. Who wants to direct expensive research money when you can maintain what you’ve sold? And then use the high margin profits to buy the small innovators.
Yes, they will buy the same innovative software company that only moments earlier were dismissed as ‘widgets’ and ‘features but not products.’ This is often said by the same CEO who in their younger day was that innovator taking on the sluggish and slow goliath.
Just accept that the differentiating applications that you need to stand out are going to come from suppliers with the lifespan a bit longer than a fruitfly. Why get hung up about that? Think of these applications as disposable: like a mobile phone or shaving razor. Most of them are delivered in a Cloud or Software as a Service model anyway. So if you play around with GIST or Lithium or Radian6 or whatever cool and valuable niche provider, and enjoy the benefit of trying the next new thing, but they are absorbed later by a larger company, relax.
You would rather enjoy the best and profit than wait Godot-like for your application platform provider to come up with the app that is going to give you a leg up on the competitor. Take the best of what a large enterprise vendor delivers: stability and maintenance of the non-differentiating but critical core, while wrapping innovative applications around them. Think of it as a business process tummy tuck. You’ll look, and feel, better.