Big Software May Give Office 2.0 Apps Needed Legitimacy

Microsoft and other big vendors may help Office 2.0 applications win IT favor in enterprises.

In many circles Microsoft might not be considered hip enough or at least too mature now to pull off Enterprise 2.0 or Office 2.0.

But eventually having Microsoft and other big technology vendors in the game may give technologies like social networking the legitimacy they need to take hold in the enterprise, according to analysts.

Joshua Greenbaum, principal analyst for Enterprise Applications Consulting, pointed out that the movement of Enterprise 2.0 technologies—blogs, wikis, social networks—taking off in the enterprise sanctioned by IT may just come about when the big guys get in the game.

"[The Enterprise 2.0] movement is so reminiscent of the PC revolution in the 1980s [where employees] sneaked PCs into an organization to improve productivity. This is how the PC revolution started," said Greenbaum, in Berkeley, Calif.

"Jobs and Wozniak didnt make the PC legitimate. It became legitimate when IBM came around. I am looking at Office 2.0 and saying when Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and SAP really kick in, is when there is really a sea change."

Among the large application and infrastructure vendors, Microsoft and IBM seem to have the biggest stake in the game at this point. Microsoft is a player with its SharePoint Server, which has support for blogs, wikis and social networking—particularly through partnerships. IBM participates through Lotus and some ancillary offerings like Quickr.


Click here to read why vendors say there is heavy demand for enterprise wikis and collaboration tools.

Microsoft, says Greenbaum, stands a good chance of co-opting the wave toward Enterprise, or Office 2.0, technologies, mainly because it has the ability to offer functionality for free. Or, as with SharePoint, its bundled in a bigger offering.

Rob Helm, an analyst with IT research firm Directions on Microsoft, pointed out that the latest release of SharePoint Server last October added support for more social networking tools. "They got caught somewhat sideways but they did try and put some support in," said Helm.

"Microsoft was looking at using social networking for search, code named Knowledge Network, as a feature of SharePoint Server, but it didnt make the cut for the 2007 release. It was scratched. Its likely to make it the next release around 2009."

Knowledge Network, according to Helm, worked fundamentally by watching peoples e-mail and other interactions to try and infer what their relationships were in their organization, and then tried to use that information to improve search. "The issue there is privacy," said Helm. "Do you really want something crawling peoples e-mail?"

Microsoft is also offering two on demand initiatives that are relevant to the Enterprise 2.0 movement. The first is Office Live which delivers SharePoint Server over the Web as a hosted service to small businesses.


Read more here about TransMedias collaborative word processing tool called Glide.

The second initiative aimed at enterprises is Microsoft Managed Services that hosts e-mail, SharePoint Portal Services and soon, most likely, voice, according to Helm. "Right now it is working with a small group of clients [for voice]," said Helm. "Long term, Microsoft could set itself up to be a major outsourcer."

Despite Microsofts moves toward adding the basic Enterprise 2.0 concepts to SharePoint there are some areas where the company is lacking in functionality, according to Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz. "Microsoft has built a fair amount of Enterprise 2.0 capabilities, mostly into SharePoint," he said. "Theyre getting all the check boxes checked, and moving in the right direction [but] their blogs and wikis are not really advanced when compared to best of breed offerings from some of the pure play vendors."

In the short term, pure play vendor functionality may provide a home advantage. However, as companies and particularly IT departments, start looking at ways to get content under control, Microsoft and its bigger software and infrastructure vendors might have a leg up.

There are some things about Microsoft that make their value proposition interesting," said Koplowitz. "Each of these things generates content, so whether its in a profile, a blog or a wiki, its content and increasingly [companies] want that content under greater levels of control and better management. Thats one of the core concepts of SharePoint. The fact that [IT] can manage these in SharePoint is going to be a key link to companies moving down the SharePoint path," Koplowitz said.

Where Microsoft lacks functionality it partners or looks to the ecosystem to step in, according to Koplowitz, who gives the example of Microsofts partnership with NewsGator on the RSS and tagging side, or SocialText in the enterprise wiki space.

That said Microsoft has some stiff competition on the horizon with both application and infrastructure vendors. IBM has the most complete offering with Lotus, though BEA Systems, Oracle and SAP are intriguing in their own ways, according to Koplowitz. Each company provides an application server that can help embed social networking at the infrastructure level.

"So I can put myself in a business process where human interaction is needed. With the new types of social computing, I can bring a team together, find a solution, document the decision, document the output and integrate that decision back into the underlying process," said Koplowitz.

"If youre buying a SAP application or an Oracle application its very compelling to look to them for this type of functionality that would be pre-integrated and maintain process integrity."


Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.