In this paper the computer software products industry is defined as consisting of those companies who sell predefined and prepackaged software for execution on the purchaser's medium or large sca le digital computer. This industry is currently playing a crucial role, as a severe bottleneck in software development exists. Our goal is to present an analysis of this industry covering a broad range of issues. Our hope is to present a picture which will enlighten both industry consumers and part icipants concerning the essent ial forces which govern growth and competition in this arena. To support our synthesis, we have performed an indepth study of over twenty companies and interviewed several industry leaders. Among our contributions is a taxonomy which permits a characterization of the diverse product offerings. Also we present figures which describe the industry in terms of the number of firms, the size of the firms, and the number of firms entering and leaving each year. We show how the firms can be segmented into three groups and discuss interactions among members of different groups. Finally we place the industry on the evolutionary life cycle and conclude with some thoughts about its future.