Being at IBM’s Lotusphere event this week has me thinking about a number of companies in the enterprise 2.0 space that have pioneered the use of social technologies. In particular are three companies that we cover often here: Socialtext, Jive Software and MindTouch.
Each of these companies competes in some respects with IBM. They also compete with Microsoft. And they are competitors in a market that has become increasingly competitive, especially as the opportunity has attracted the attention of other companies such as Oracle and Salesforce.com (which seems to lack no appetite for small companies that include Dimdim, Heroku and its latest acquisition Manymoon).
I am always curious about Sociatext. I’ve known this company for years. I did an online event in 2004 called RSS Winterfest. Socialtext Founder Ross Mayfield became a big part of it. For the event, an RSS feed was added to the Socialtext wiki application for updating subscribers with information about the discussion during the event’s webcast. The wiki featured a number of topics that we seeded prior to the event. Developers could list their RSS tools, add their biographies and add to the notes about the program.
The wiki became the central place for communication about the webcast and the community that participated. Today, the central place for communication is the activity stream. It’s a core aspect of modern applications such as Twitter and Facebook. Activity streams serve as a central hub for community interaction.
Today Socialtext sees the market in different terms, said CEO Eugene Lee in a recent interview. First off, the recession is not gone but customers are talking about the market. The percentage of questions are shifting. People are moving beyond the basic questions. They are now more educated. They ask questions to see if what they want to do makes sense.
That shift is evident in IBM’s posture at Lotusphere. An IBM manager said to me this evening that the presence on stage of Senior Vice President of Marketing Jon Iwota shows that Lotusphere is now more than an event about the Lotus software group. It’s about IBM. The executives in charge of this 100-year-old technology company have decided that its concept of the smarter planet fits well with the transparent ways of social business.
If you look at what IBM announced you will see that they are aggressively marketing to developers. It is embracing HTML 5 and open standards. It is adapting a social business framework and deeply integrating REST APIs. That’s forward thinking, but the market has been shifting this way for a while. Companies like Socialtext have been the ones developing practices that IBM is now adopting.
IBM announced shared calendars with its new Lotus Next suite. In demonstrations on stage, product managers showed co-editing capabilities with Lotus Symphony. Users get access to activity stream, mail and calendars. Mobile voice mail is configured to show up in activity stream. Messages can be played in browser and text appears, too.
These are features that will not be available for a number of months. And they are features that competing companies are integrating at a rapid pace.
Socialtext has issues of its own as do the other companies we mention. It has not scaled in size. Its sales team is still relatively small and it faces competition from younger companies than it.
But if Socialext and IBM are correct then this year may be the one that social technologies begin to see far greater adoption. And that should bode well for both companies.
We’ll discuss Jive and Mindtouch in later posts. Both are young companies, too, whose futures are as tied to social business as any on the planet.