5 Boston Tech Companies Not to Watch in 2013

12/31/12Follow @gthuang

Everyone, including me, has been talking about which innovative companies people should keep an eye on in the coming year. Zzzzzz … there are plenty of those companies, and too many of those articles.

I’m here to tell you about something that might actually be more important: which companies not to watch. Maybe they’re not doing anything worth your time or attention. Maybe they’re just boring as hell. Or maybe, just maybe, they’re doing so much that it’s just too hard to wrap your mind around their greater strategy—so let’s ignore them, unless they acquire another company, lay off 100 employees, get a new CEO, or their stock explodes.

So, here are five publicly traded tech companies around Boston that you need not bother paying attention to in 2013. They’ll continue going about their big-company business—making money, talking to shareholders, hiring top talent, keeping Boston in the national tech discussion, transforming some of the industries they’re in—while much of the mainstream tech press chases the next hot startup, Zuckerberg wannabe, or dumb topic of the day.

That’s just fine with these companies. Their market caps might add up to $70 billion-plus, but hey, they’re still no Facebook. And look, I don’t even have a slideshow for you today (who cares about traffic, nobody needs to read this).

1. Akamai (Cambridge, MA)

Anytime a 14-year-old Boston tech icon from the dot-com era gets a new CEO, you might at least notice. Co-founder and former chief scientist Tom Leighton is taking the reins at Akamai (NASDAQ: AKAM) as of the new year, succeeding Paul Sagan. Akamai is trying to become a one-stop shop for big companies to deliver content and applications over the Web (OK, the “cloud”). The firm has been making big investments (and acquisitions) in Web optimization, content delivery, and other IT infrastructure. It probably knows more about Internet traffic and applications than almost anyone else in town. And it’s right in Kendall Square. But it’s been around for so long, it can’t possibly be interesting anymore, can it?

2. TripAdvisor (Newton, MA)

You certainly don’t need to worry about the biggest consumer Web company in Boston (and maybe the Northeast, depending on how you count). Go there if you want to research a city or hotel you’re visiting, or maybe find a great local restaurant on your phone when you land, or share travel experiences with your friends and family when you get home. But don’t worry about 1,400-employee TripAdvisor’s (NASDAQ: TRIP) strategy in mobile, social, or China and other international markets (75 percent of its traffic comes from outside the U.S.). It’s putting out multiple new releases a week. It’ll be there when you need it.

3. Nuance Communications (Burlington, MA)

Is there anyone else left standing in speech and communication tech? Besides Apple and Google, I mean? Nuance (NASDAQ: NUAN) has absorbed or merged with pretty much all the upstarts over the years—from Dragon’s speech technology to Speechworks/ScanSoft to SVOX to Swype to Vlingo. Pay no attention to the company’s recent moves in healthcare; that $80-gazillion field is going nowhere. Or mobile interfaces (who needs a smartphone anymore?). As long as Siri keeps running those annoying celebrity commercials, I’m not listening. Plus, who will ever talk to their computer? Long live the keyboard and mouse.

4. Constant Contact (Waltham, MA)

Marketing tech is kind of hot these days, in case you missed the memo. Oracle just spent $800 million-plus to buy Eloqua. And Salesforce.com bought Buddy Media for nearly $700 million earlier this year. Meanwhile, Constant Contact (NASDAQ: CTCT) keeps chugging along in small-business marketing tech, expanding from e-mail and event marketing into social and Web marketing. But the company has survived far too long (14 years in its current incarnation) to be relevant in today’s scintillating, minute-by-minute, tech-blog echo chamber. In fact, between Constant Contact, HubSpot, Demandware, Unica (now part of IBM), and other marketing software firms, this is a great opportunity for Boston to blow another big lead in technology and talent, and miss out on another tech revolution. Say it with me: PC, Internet, marketing. (Don’t get me started on big data.)

5. EMC (Hopkinton, MA)

So … has anyone paid attention to the biggest tech company in Boston lately? You know, $50-something billion market cap, data storage pioneer, virtualization virtuoso, acquirer of pretty much whatever it wants? Does big data mean anything to you? EMC (NYSE: EMC) is the 800-pound gorilla in the data/cloud/security sector. It has some of the most famous tech executives in the whole industry in Joe Tucci, Paul Maritz, and Pat Gelsinger. But in the day-to-day world of online journalism, EMC can’t keep up—it’s just too big, too powerful. If you want to think about the future of hardware vs. software, of data centers, of networking, of the cloud, you might want to track the giant’s footsteps. But otherwise, just kick back, follow the little trend du jour, and keep weighing in with all those fabulous tweets.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • Jerry Jeff

    Love it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/catherine.marenghi Catherine Marenghi

    If you had a similar list of privately held companies, high on the list would be InterSystems Corp. — based in Cambridge, founded 1978, big data pioneer, and $446 million in revenue — and growing — with 1,400 people worldwide..

  • gthuang

    Thanks, Catherine. Good tip!