IBM released "stream computing" applications that allow businesses to look at and analyze huge amounts of data in real time. Describing the product, IBM said "System S is built for perpetual analytics — utilizing a new streaming architecture and breakthrough mathematical algorithms, to create a forward-looking analysis of data from any source — narrowing down precisely what people are looking for and continuously refining the answer as additional data is made available." The ability to have access to that kind of information will undoubtedly be valuable to governments, the financial industry, and large multinationals with thousands of retail outlets. The new software is unique and does not appear to have any direct competition.
Google also announced a new set of products. The most important one allows the company's customers to take very large amounts of search data and organize it into spreadsheets. As it released the new tools and several other innovations, Google said they would "open up whole new ways of searching that haven't previously been available." Yahoo! (YHOO) does not have anything to compete with the new technology. Microsoft (MSFT) does not either, despite its unparalleled access to capital and software engineering talent.
What the companies do have in common is a willingness to take risks, probably risks with long odds in order to launch new products. These products may be failures, but they are well enough researched and designed that they have a good chance of keeping IBM and Google ahead of the competition even if that does not immediately involve significant new revenue.