TIBCO Software (NASDAQ:TIBX.DL) CEO Vivek Ranadive thinks the 21st century started a little late. In his keynote speech at last week's TUCON 2013 conference, Ranadive said the new century really started in 2010, driven by five primary forces.

We looked at the investable value of four of Ranadive's five forces in another article. This one's about the fifth force and how it sets TIBCO apart from its primary competitors, IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Oracle (NYSE:ORCL).

Close-up of a computer chip.

Image source: Getty Images.

5: Math trumping science
You no longer have to know the why behind your business data. You only need to know the what. "If A and B happen, there's a high likelihood that C will happen," is how Ranadive explained this one.

This is the closest thing to a TIBCO sales pitch in Ranadive's keynote. It's what TIBCO tools do: Plug in the right data and look at it until a pattern emerges, and then you can take action without knowing exactly what's going on.

Ranadive and various other TUCON speakers kept repeating this simple mantra: "Better 80% right than three months late." It's more important to take action when the moment is right, leaving the deep background analysis for later.

In one famous example, TIBCO tools helped a major retail chain notice that some combinations of checkout items led to sinister conclusions. If the customer is buying razors, champagne, and diapers all in the same shopping trip, he's probably using a stolen credit card.

That tidbit was reported a few years ago, and card thieves have probably adjusted their shopping habits by now. But TIBCO's Spotfire suite is still helping retailers identify this shopping list's replacement. It's a problem of math and statistical analysis, not one of genius human insights. Figure out what's going on so you can take action to stop it, and then go back later to figure out the reasons behind this red flag.

And that's where TIBCO's unique high-speed analysis really comes in handy. This is how TIBCO beats larger and more established alternatives in head-to-head contract bids, and what sets the company apart from the competition.

Both IBM and Oracle know what TIBCO is doing, and they see that it's a valuable moat-builder. Oracle builds special "in-memory" versions of many of its most popular applications, in an attempt to match TIBCO's super-speed analysis. IBM does the same thing with the analysis tools in its WebSphere suite. But TIBCO has a two-decade head start on IBM and Oracle, and it's not an easy thing to build.

It's the "two-second advantage" that TIBCO has been touting for years. As you might expect when the CEO gives a speech organized around these five points, TIBCO taps into every trend in this rundown.

But everybody is doing social Big Data apps for Asian smartphones. It's this fifth angle that makes TIBCO unique.

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