A trio of enterprise social software providers are jockeying for position within Microsoft’s SharePoint platform at the Enterprise 2.0 show in Boston June 9. One or more of these vendors could find a permanent home within the software giant’s billion-dollar-plus collaboration suite.
Awareness’ Summer 2008 platform integrates with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0.
Similarly, WorkLight launched software that allows employees to access and update Office SharePoint Server 2007 information using Facebook, personalized homepage gadgets, desktop widgets, RSS and smartphones.
NewsGator Technologies’ Social Sites 2.0, meanwhile, lets users access its profiles and other social capabilities directly from within Office SharePoint Server 2007.
Awareness CTO David Carter said the Awareness Summer 2008 platform includes portable widgets that extend Awareness communities to any Web site and third-party services such as iGoogle and Facebook.
Users can now access people lists, status, profile privacy, presence, neighborhoods, groups and activity feeds through a customizable drag-and-drop user interface.
For SharePoint customers that work with customers and partners, Awareness has packaged its widgets as Web Parts, so that when Awareness creates a community for an organization, SharePoint administrators get a set of customizable Web parts for their sites.
These widgets allow users to monitor and contribute community content, display user details and status, search content and monitor community participation metrics directly from within SharePoint Products and Technologies.
The Microsoft-Awareness integration also enables Awareness dashboards within SharePoint, integration with Microsoft single sign-on; integrated search of SharePoint and Awareness content; and access the new and existing Awareness community social networking functionalities.
WorkLight’s integration with SharePoint is comparable to Awareness. The company enables users to access SharePoint Server 2007 information, such as document updates and contact information, via Web-based widgets from within Facebook, or via Windows Live, Vista Sidebar, iGoogle and Netvibes.
WorkLight users can also arrange to receive SharePoint Server 2007 notifications through their iPhones and BlackBerry smartphones and search for colleagues in the organization across both SharePoint Server 2007 and Facebook, using WorkLight’s WorkBook app.
Like the Awareness-SharePoint integration, users can also access enterprise application data from widgets running as SharePoint Server 2007 Web Parts. This allows employees to do time reporting, task acknowledgement and purchase approvals right from SharePoint.
The social network and widget bridges Awareness and WorkLight are building between themselves and SharePoint underscore a couple things. One is SharePoint’s smash success, so integrating with the platform will give smaller vendors greater visibility and ultimately traction in the market.
Two, the provider that works best with Microsoft might find itself in the darling position of Microsoft target. Microsoft has long been criticized for failing to properly incorporate social tools across its platform, but it hasn’t had to, thanks to integrations with social tool vendors.
Permanent Pacts Possible
Eventually, the software giant could decide it wants to make its pacts with one or more of these vendors permanent by acquiring them and their teams for total immersion into the SharePoint platform.
eWEEK’s money is on Awareness; Carter spent 11 years at Microsoft building up Site Server, the kernel of which went on to become SharePoint server.
Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang told eWEEK the demand for branded social networks, or white labels, is increasing among enterprises, with most brands turning to specialized vendors beyond the established content management and portal vendors that manage the corporate Web sites.
“Looking at previous Web cycles, Microsoft [among other traditional Web management vendors] will need to offer these new toolsets to customers,” he said. “While it’s too early to make a prediction, Awareness and Telligent are two of the few white label social networks using Microsoft’s .NET technology.”
But don’t count out the larger NewsGator. Though known primarily as a consumer social media provider, the company June 9 released version 2.0 of Social Sites, its social computing solution for — surprise — Office SharePoint Server 2007.
Social Sites 2.0 works from directly within SharePoint to essentially turn intranets into social hubs by providing enhanced tagging, RSS feed subscriptions and management, colleague tracking features and content mashup capabilities. Brian Kellner, vice president of products for NewsGator, told eWEEK.
There are communities to let employees share ideas, information and documents within the Microsoft platform, discovery of groups via customized recommendations, tag clouds, search; a discussion utility that lets users participate in a community without logging in to the site.
There are also employee social graphs based on both explicit and implied connections, showing each user their strongest connections based on common content, interests and intranet activity. The software also recommends colleagues to a user based on common community membership, tags and RSS subscriptions.