2005 has been an unusually eventful year for marketing systems. The vendor consolidation that began with the bursting of the tech bubble has run its course, and the contours of the future marketplace seem clear. The future has a way of defying expectations, so nothing is certain.

We'll start with the market today. What once was a fantastic profusion of choices among all types of vendors has consolidated into a much simpler landscape. The past year has seen acquisitions of one-time leaders including Siebel, Epiphany, DoubleClick's SmartTouch and Ensemble products and Paris-based AIMS Software. There now remain only two major vendors focused primarily on marketing automation: Unica and Aprimo. You could argue that Aprimo is as much a marketing resource management (MRM) company as a marketing automation vendor. (Marketing automation is mostly campaign management and analysis; marketing resource management is more about planning, project management and content distribution.)

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