Microsoft's Achilles' heel? SaaS capability
More broadly, the market for buying software of all kinds, not just collaboration packages, stands at an interesting crossroads today because of the ailing economy. When it comes to choosing between SharePoint and a newer vendor, customers can go either way, says Stowe Boyd, an expert in social technologies who conducted this year's Open Enterprise Study, the results of which will be unveiled this week at the conference.
"Some companies say, at the big downturn, that we're not going to do anything and we'll make do with what we've got," Boyd says. "So if they have SharePoint, they're not going to build something new. Other companies say, because we need to reevaluate everything we're doing, it might be that the way we've been spending money on these technologies just doesn't make sense. Maybe we should try something new."
Boyd also says that enterprises are moving away from a document-centric world -- which SharePoint largely remains a conduit for in the enterprise. Rather than constantly spend your entire day in a Microsoft Word file or Outlook e-mail, you might collaborate trading short messages in real-time with streaming technologies, like a Twitter for the enterprise.
Software delivery models may matter significantly as well. As companies try to contain costs, they will increasingly buy applications in a SaaS (software as a service) model instead of hosting them in-house. While Microsoft has launched a SaaS version of SharePoint, it lacks many of the features of its older, on-premise brother. Most of the Enterprise 2.0 vendors offer fully featured SaaS products.
"Apps that are natively SaaS will have a natural advantage for that delivery mechanism," Mayfield says. "We've developed a way to deliver it on the cloud that works for enterprises."
C.G. Lynch writes about consumer and social technologies, and tracks their migration into the workplace. You can follow him on Twitter: @cglynch.