2009 may be remembered as the year that enterprises truly understood the importance of social software. This was manifested by the rise of enterprise collaboration services, cloud computing technologies and the growing importance of mobile technologies for the enterprise.

Web-based services are moving fast into the enterprise, raising questions about document-based environments in a world increasingly influenced by real-time information. We saw this time and again as the year rolled on. It played an important factor in how we developed our top ten list.

Our list includes three companies that made the list last year. We expect that this list may have some surprises. We welcome your feedback on the products that made the top 10 and your thoughts on ones that didn't make it.

Microsoft Windows Azure and Sharepoint

Microsoft has made huge strides with Sharepoint 2010. It is expected to continue its march into the enterprise this coming year. It may not be a best of breed application by any means, but its API is attracting a healthy number of third-party vendors. These companies are developing services to bring a level of transparency to enterprise data, which has historically been trapped in data silos.

But Windows Azure is Microsoft's most exciting development. Ray Ozzie unveiled the cloud-based platform at the Professional Developers Conference last month and it is living up to its promise. It supports Ruby on Rails and MySQL, another sign that open-source is welcome on the Azure platform. Dallas, its mashup service, embraces the computational power of cloud computing, giving developers the ability to create their own applications that they may sell via the Azure platform. All in all, the services Microsoft is providing makes it a natural fit for the Top 10 list.

Jive Software SBS 4.0

This Portland-based company continues to make strides into the enterprise. Earlier this Fall, the company unveiled Jive SBS 4.0, its most significant update to date. SBS 4.0 is Jive's latest version of its enterprise collaboration technology. Jive may be the most threatening competitor to Microsoft Sharepoint. Its platform integrates with Microsoft Office and the iPhone, and provides a social layer that users find compelling. Jive recently raised $12 million in venture funding from Sequoia Capital.

Salesforce.com

Salesforce.com took a deep dive into the social space this year, culminating with Salesforce Chatter, a real-time service that acts as an internal social network for its customers. It was the culmination of a big year for the cloud-based service. Force.com, its application platform, saw significant growth. To date, developers have launched 135,000 applications on the platform. Furthermore, a growing number of third-party services are integrating with the platform, showing again how important Salesforce.com has become in the Enterprise 2.0 space.

SocialCast Social Business Intelligence

One of our favorite companies in the web space, SocialCast is one of those services that just seems to understand the market and execute accordingly. What sets it apart is the user interface and SocialCast Social Business Intelligence and its sophisticated analytics environment, which will be a critical aspect to any service providing a real-time feed in an enterprise environment.

Google Apps

Google is making a clear move into the enterprise in a number of ways. Most recently, it enhanced its integration with the Blackberry. Google Sites recently had a major upgrade. Overall, Google is investing heavily in features to give enterprise customers more incentives to switch from Microsoft Office.

We'll see how 2010 turns out for Google, but the path looks pretty clear for Google Apps to make further gains in the enterprise.

MindTouch

MindTouch continues to find traction with its open-source services. Its most recent offering, MindTouch Cloud, is an open-source alternative to Sharepoint.

Its ability to stitch together different data elements gives MindTouch an advantage in the enterprise, as customers seek additional ways to create dashboards that provide views into their internal systems and external environments.

Cisco Collaboration

This choice may be a bit of a surprise, but we feel that Cisco's investments in VOIP and collaboration services position it as a major player in the market. The company is acquiring Tandberg, it launched a social network service for internal use in the enterprise, and its VOIP service is now integrated with Salesforce.com.

We see 2010 as the year that Cisco must tie it all together. It needs a glue to connect all of the services that it offers. Unlike Microsoft or IBM, Cisco lacks an underlying data structure. Still, the company's deep commitment to collaboration technologies in 2009 shows how it is transitioning to a new market that is built in many ways upon a social fabric.

Socialtext

The Socialtext story dates back to the days before Web 2.0. It began as a wiki provider and has since transformed itself into a collaboration service with real-time, microblogging integrations. In the past year, the company has continued to innovate - most recently with SocalCalc, the spreadsheet service that allows for multiple users to collaborate simultaneously across multiple documents.

The challenge for Socialtext is to move past its perception as a wiki provider. The market is far larger for a collaboration platform and Socialext knows it. It will face steep competition in the enterprise against entrenched players like Microsoft and newcomers like Jive Software.

present.ly

This is another company that may be flying under the radar to most, but is taking a smart approach with enterprise customers. Present.ly is an enterprise collaboration service that provides a real-time activity stream. It is profitable and growing, and is taking the steps required to gain the trust of enterprises. Its security is tight and it offers the choice of an on-premise solution.

present.ly is one of those elegant services that we admire for its smart fit with services like Twitter; and its compatibility with an array of mobile and web-based services.

Apple iPhone

Perhaps one of the most revolutionary consumer products of our time, the iPhone is now also having a dramatic impact on the enterprise. Waves of business users have adopted the iPhone, creating demand for a new generation of enterprise applications.

It's the Web that matters. Apple understands that dynamic far more than RIM and its Blackberry, which has a tough fight on its hands in 2010. There is no slowing down the iPhone; it's quickly becoming the app of choice for the enterprise.

In Conclusion

In 2009 we saw the rise of collaboration services, the maturing of cloud computing and advances in SaaS platforms. The rise of mobile technologies will continue in 2010. And social technologies in the enterprise? Well, they're here to stay.

ReadWriteWeb's Best Products of 2009:

  1. Top 10 Mobile Web Products
  2. Top 10 Consumer Web Apps
  3. Top 10 Semantic Web Products
  4. Top 10 International Web Products
  5. Top 10 RSS & Syndication Technologies
  6. Top 10 Enterprise Products
  7. Top 10 Internet of Things Products
  8. Top 10 Real-Time Technologies
  9. Top 10 Startup Products
  10. Top 10 Web Platforms