"The features Microsoft comes out with in 2010 are the features that were in demand in 2007 and 2008," says Dan Short, director of product marketing at the Portland, Ore.-based Jive Software. "The pace at which things are evolving in the consumer space is very fast. We [Jive] can have an increasingly deep integration with SharePoint, but we believe the social nature of interactions and the speed at which technology is evolving to meet those will outpace SharePoint [and its social features]."
Socialtext started in 2001, specializing in enterprise wiki technology. It has employed a similar innovation strategy to keep ahead of Redmond. Over time, Socialtext followed the consumer market and developed new social features on top of its product. It added social networking profiles that allowed companies to build their corporate intranet with a Facebook-like design. Most recently, it launched Socialtext Signals, a technology that creates an internal Twitter-like experience for the enterprise, where employees share their actions with colleagues.
"It takes Microsoft a long time to deliver software to the market," says Ross Mayfield, Socialtext's president and chairman. "A year ago, the idea of having microblogging and activity streams for the enterprise was a new concept. Well, that's around the time they probably froze the spec for SharePoint 2010. Overnight, the demand for social software changed, and it will change again."
When enterprise demand changes, Mayfield says that he and many of his contemporaries can adapt much faster than Microsoft. In addition, he claims the cost of implementing his software for internal collaboration comes to a tenth of the price of SharePoint's rollout cost, a factor he believes many customers will respond to given the difficult economy.
Microsoft plays the old stability card
But cost and innovation aren't the only characteristics businesses, especially large ones, look for in their software, says Michael Sampson, a collaboration expert who has written a book on SharePoint. Other issues that customers consider include vendor stability, partner ecosystems and appetite for risk as it concerns new technologies.
"Companies want to know of the other vendors, 'how long have they been around?' And 'how long can they go forward?'" Sampson says. "Microsoft will be here forever and a day, so they win in that criteria."
Microsoft has also nurtured hundreds of thousands of mom-and-pop support shops that have made it their business to implement SharePoint. For the Enterprise 2.0 vendors, this makes it hard to compete. They can focus on implementing their startup wares for some of their bigger customers, but many smaller companies will be forced to go it alone.
"It's one thing to say I have this great tool, but it's another look through a phone book and find someone who has experience implementing it," Sampson says. "Microsoft and IBM will both win on that criteria as well. They've had historical success with clients. They've got examples. The Enterprise 2.0 vendors have to find the renegades who are willing to take risks."