The story of 2009? Enterprise disruption?

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In addition to the interview I did yesterday with socialtext, which explores some of the disruption coming to enterprises, there’s another trend I’m tracking: the coming fight between the collaborative web and Microsoft.

Now some pundits in the industry think that the fight will be head on. Not me. I think it’ll be more parasitic. Like how mold takes over a strawberry. Slow, but in the end the strawberry dies.

Is that what we’re seeing now? Well, here’s something that is a small piece of the bigger trend. You could call it a few cells of mold on the strawberry, if you’d like.

What is it? Panorama Software for Google Apps. I shot two videos with Oudi Antebi, VP of marketing and strategy of Panorama Software. Never heard of them? Neither had I, but what they are doing is very disruptive to bigger companies:

Part I. Where we discover what is happening in the Business Intelligence space and learn what Panorama Software is doing. (This video is embedded above).
Part II. Demo of how the Panorama gadget is used to display real-time data.

So, why did this catch my eye? First, they are taking something very expensive, Business Intelligence charting and dashboarding, and making it free. That alone is pretty disruptive. When Microsoft is charging $a few hundred a seat (and Microsoft is disrupting lots of other players in the market who charge a lot more than that) you know there’s disruption when some new player comes along and under prices everyone.

But don’t focus on that disruption.

Instead, look at the bigger picture. Here they are using Google spreadsheets to bring you live, collaborative, business intelligence. Watch the second video to see how different this is from most of the “old-school” approaches that haven’t yet built on a platform designed for the web from the start.

See that’s the real disruption: there’s a new platform being built. Right now it’s ugly and incomplete. But every year it gets better and better. Will 2009 be the year when lots of you try out a web-based collaboration suite like the ones from Zoho or Google?

I am sensing “yes” is the answer. Why? The economy is forcing big companies to cut every cost they can and this stuff is not only lower cost (often free, or a few bucks a month) but it also is much more productive. Now anyone in a group can update a spreadsheet and everyone in the company can see that activity in real time.

This is very powerful and useful. I remember visiting Printing for Less a few years back. They had graphs like this on their intranet for all their employees. But now anyone can build them for very little money.

And keep watching, this stuff isn’t only for Google. It is for Salesforce.com and other enterprise data.

After the cameras were off he showed me something else they are working on for 2009. He swore me to secrecy, but I can say this, if what he showed me comes out a lot of things will be flipped and a lot of people will finally get some use out of the collaborative world.

The other question for 2009 is will Microsoft’s slow efforts to “webize” its Office Suite be enough to keep these trends at bay for another year? My gut feeling? Microsoft is so strong and so well capitalized and living off of the continued strong momentum that it won’t be hurt in 2009 but by the end of the year most pundits will start noticing the fuzz on the strawberry and will start asking deep questions of Microsoft’s leadership.

Who said that enterprise software was boring?

The view of economy from Palo Alto's socialtext

Socialtext is one of those companies that got started during the last downturn and has played an important role in the valley’s startup culture for the past few years (they hosted the first BarCamp, for instance). So yesterday I went over to have a chat with founder Ross Mayfield and CEO Eugene Lee. We discussed mostly the economy, but a little bit about the enterprise software and services that socialtext sells. Socialtext started as a company that sold wikis to enterprises, but has expanded that into a social collaboration and productivity suite that’s doing very well. While I was in the office two sizeable sales came in from two big companies.

Eugene Lee was an executive at Cisco when Cisco had to lay a lot of people off during the last downturn, so he talks about that too. I split the interview up into three pieces:

Part I. What will happen to both large and small companies during downturn? What are they seeing from their enterprise customers? (Hint: record sales so far this quarter but great uncertainty for next year).
Part II. Discussion of corporate pain of email.
Part III. Ross tells me about socialtext’s alumni network and how that can help both companies and workers who are laid off.

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