Microstrategy call themselves the biggest independent BI vendor, although SAS may have some argument with that! They are the biggest pureplay business intelligence company though, and that is their niche.
MSTR did not get swept up in the BI consolidation wave that happened in 2006-2008. I expect them to remain independent well into the future as they have a good enough financial position to weather the worst of the software market swings. The founder, Michael Saylor, is still the largest individual shareholder and has been a strong voice in predicting the future of data usage. He has been at the helm for over 20 years and has shown no signs of stepping aside.
Their main competitors are now the big boys: IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft. They decided not to align itself with a huge IT conglomerate and remain neutral. As a result, they don’t offer a one stop shopping experience that say, an IBM, can with database, corporate performance management software, middleware, and business intelligence. Instead, they have positioned themselves as a pure play independent vendor. They still offer dedicated support, training, education, certification, and consulting services similar to the big vendors.
From a technology standpoint, they have excellent offerings and pushed R&D very aggressively while the big boys were consolidating their acquisitions. It appears to be paying off. In addition to their standard reporting and dashboarding offerings, they’ve been pushing the envelope on other trends.
As with most large stack BI vendors, the major of their reports are accessed through a web portal in most implementations.In the last two years or so, their main development push has been with mobile, especially on Apple’s products, the iPad and iPhone. They’ve also been pushing out new products based on social media. Their other big initiative is in high-performance/high-volume BI, and have been succeeding there. Most of the biggest data producing companies in the world, including search engines and social media, use Microstrategy. They are also big in the retail space, another huge data producing segment.
Version 9.3 is the latest, coming out in Q4 2012. A lot of the new features are geared around the Visual Insight tool. It looks like a lot of the UI here is very similar to Tableau, and in fact it is the MSTR answer for the visualization tools that have become very popular. I expect continued development around the DIY BI functionality in the future, along with new features in their Express and Cloud.