Are these cloud-based social-feed enterprise disrupters boxing in Microsoft Sharepoint?

SocialWok is doing some interesting stuff with the Google ecosystem. I met up with them in the hallway at Google IO and I came away from the meeting wondering if they will stay an independent company for very long. Why? Because they are doing the most interesting thing to bring Google’s datatypes into your work. Worse yet for Microsoft, I’m seeing that a range of companies are building a wall around Microsoft’s Sharepoint and limiting its ability to grow, at best and potentially taking market share away from Ballmer’s Microsoft.

Now, one small company on its own doesn’t seem to be that big a threat to Microsoft, does it? But let’s look at a range of companies in this post and look at them holistically. I’m seeing the world move toward these newer companies.

First, a disclaimer, I work for Rackspace and we provide hosted SharePoint, so we are hoping you stay on Microsoft SharePoint for a long time and we’ll make it easy to manage your collaboration system. That said, I think it’s important to keep up to date on what’s going on in the Enterprise market, which is why I spend so much time meeting with competitive companies and doing these videos.

Box.net poking at SharePoint’s weakness: social services

Last week I attended a talk by Box.net‘s CEO, Aaron Levie, where he did his best impression of Salesforce’s CEO and not only took on Microsoft but laid out what he’s seeing as a range of cloud-based services that are making a new kind of work possible.

OffiSync: Taking your Microsoft documents and spreadsheets and getting them into Google’s Cloud

Look at this new company, OffiSync from Israel. They let you move your Microsoft documents into Google’s Cloud, but even better, that is like a gateway drug to getting you into Google’s enterprise world. Why? Because if you get your Word docs and spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations off your hard drive and out of email you’ll probably also learn that you could just go all the way and convert them to Google’s online formats which will remove Microsoft from the picture completely.

Yammer: removing all the other stuff to focus only on the social

Recently I visited Yammer and talked with their executives where I learned they were seeing large wins by having enterprise employees bring them in the back door. Why are they doing that? Because Yammer focuses only on the social stream (it originally looked like a copy of Twitter, but now has gotten some other features that make it better to use for enterprise users).

SocialCast: bringing activity streams (IE, Facebook-like features) to workplace for less money than Salesforce Chatter (and more freedom too)

In my visit to SocialCast I got a look at their latest offerings which are competitive with SocialWok’s and Salesforce Chatter, but for less money than Salesforce’s offerings. Their competitive advantage? You can use SocialCast on your own servers, where with SocialWok or Salesforce you are forced to use only cloud-based services.

SocialText: mixes a full suite of collaboration tools into social

When you visit Ross Mayfield, founder of SocialText, you get the feeling he’s been doing this a lot longer than the other players on the field and you’d be right. His company started as an easy-to-use wiki company but over the last few years has turned on a range of services from spreadsheets to other collaboration tools and laid them into a social feed.

Jive: pushing large-scale communities into collaboration tools

If you visit VMWare you’ll see they have 1.5-million people on their communities which are all run on Jive. Jive is the biggest of the startup disrupters of the enterprise world and consistent rumors have floated from its Palo Alto headquarters that they are working on an IPO but they are using that lead in community-management to make major moves into the new social enterprise world. Here I meet with CEO Dave Hersh and he talks about what he’s seeing happen.

Zoho: outrunning everyone with a huge suite of corporate services

If you look at Zoho’s home page you’ll see dozens of services, all aimed at helping you work better but for less money. These are services built from the ground up for the Web and they have proven to be very popular. Here I talk with Zoho’s CEO, Sridhar Vembu, about how he views the new Microsoft Office along with competition from Google (Zoho is on Google’s new enterprise app store and doing well there) and where he’s taking his company.

Salesforce Chatter: moving from just being for salespeople to being a crucial information-sharing service for the entire corporation

The big daddy of the disrupters is Salesforce. Why? Because they already have a relationship with nearly every CTO in the world so they can — unlike Yammer or most of the other players I’m discussing here — go in the front door of the company and get large groups of the company to buy in with one sales call. Already we’re seeing that happen as they roll out their beta and getting more engagement from enterprise employees than the others have gotten after scratching out adoption over a period of years. Why is Salesforce Chatter so important? Because they are building hooks into other corporate information systems, like those from SAP, and shoving info from those APIs directly into the social feed that looks a lot like Facebook. Here I sit down with the guy behind Chatter, Senior VP of Product Marketing Kraig Swensrud.

Tomorrow I’ll be at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference looking for more enterprise disrupters. I’m sure I’m missing a ton here, including companies like Atlassian, Blogtronix (video here), or Google themselves. If you think your company deserves to be in this conversation, please post a comment here. Thanks!

So, what do you think? Are these newer approaches taking away from Sharepoint? Are they boxing it in?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

7 thoughts on “Are these cloud-based social-feed enterprise disrupters boxing in Microsoft Sharepoint?

  1. I think talking about disrupting the incumbent makes for good headlines.

    However, couldn't it also be that instead of disruption, these new services together with SharePoint, are helping to expand the overall market for enterprise and social collaboration tools? I think the market is more than big enough to have multiple players co-exist. Why? Simply stated, it's because different organizations have different needs.

    For a simple example, consider this: Because of policy and regulation issues, there are organizations that will never consider a pure cloud-hosted service in the near future. While for others, the preference is the cloud over on premises.

    And SharePoint – despite itself being a versatile platform – is probably not intended to be the answer to every single collaboration need on earth. There is always room for others to innovate. And those companies you mentioned like SocialText, Jive, and Atlassian? Guess what? They all integrate with SharePoint.

    The future is one of open interoperability, where a customer can pick and choose which foundation and which tools they want to build out their social collaboration on, with the promise that everything should more or less work together.

    At the Microsoft Innovation Centre in Singapore, we are pretty happy for Socialwok, and am glad that one of our BizSpark startups is getting all the good press they deserve.

    We are happy to have helped them announce their new Outlook Social Connector a couple weeks ago, and we continue to help them open doors within Microsoft as and when we can.

    http://innovativesingapore.com/2010/05/socialwo

  2. All your post shows is that there are just too many cogs in this space, whereas Sharepoint can do nearly all of those things (granted you may need to build out some of them). BUT its been my experience that you want ONE solution to handle your enterprise platform for social/crm/intranet etc. Sharepoint is that platform and OFFICE is the suite of products that integrate with SHAREPOINT for document/media collaboration.

    All these other solutions are just distractions for enterprises.

    Microsoft are doing a great job selling there products as one big and easy to manage solution for all your enterprise needs. And that is why ultimately all these other products including salesforce will fail. Once MSCRM moves fully onto the sharepoint platform and can exists seemlessly in the cloud or hosted then goodbye salesforce.

    As someone who's implemented sharepoint for several big financial businesses in australia it's a very compelling product MS have and there is absolutely nothing in the industry that comes close to it (Sharepoint 2010 is going to be a goldmine for MS).

  3. Let's get serious Robert. Google, even with these third parties, cannot provide enterprise with the synergy that Microsoft can with Exchange, Office and Sharepoint.

  4. Robert, I tried to buy that SharePoint hosting off your employer Rackspace but it is impossible to buy it alone – I must first buy Microsoft Exchange – what is not good as competition offers SharePoint hosting without forcing you to bundle it with something else.

  5. Not at all – these “competing” technologies can only do bits + pieces of what SharePoint can do as a whole. Problem is, to this day, most folks (a lot of them decision makers) are clueless as to what SharePoint IS FOR THEIR organization. Read: '5 Reasons Why Executive SharePoint Ignorance is Not Bliss' http://bit.ly/7tKkKz

    It's a catch 22 you see – SharePoint IS a platform. It can be anything, everything + nothing. Unless organizations take a step back and STRATEGICALLY look at their business needs – they'll realize that 'band-aiding' their needs with a hodge-podge of tools for collaboration, reporting, doc management, records management, compliance, etc. will be more costly in the long run. Read ' How to Prioritize Business Needs When Implementing SharePoint' http://bit.ly/8sCiVR

  6. Microsoft has a huge advantage- the Microsoft brand, the Office brand, and now the SharePoint brand. That’s a trifecta of branding and capability that any opponent must over come.

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