SharePoint 2010: Four Big-Name Social Networking Rivals

IBM, Cisco, Google and Salesforce all aim to beat Microsoft SharePoint 2010 at the high-stakes enterprise social networking game — and have recently made some smart plays. Here's a look at how the rivals currently stack up.

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Mon, June 28, 2010

CIO — Microsoft became decidedly more social with SharePoint 2010, adding social networking tools like improved wiki and blog integration, tagging and microblogging into its SharePoint MySites feature.

As the social Web extends beyond Twitter and Facebook and into businesses, many enterprise-level companies are changing their cultures and focusing on improving communication, sharing information and connecting global workforces through social media.

Microsoft is not the only one integrating social networking features into its flagship products, of course. Big-name rivals IBM (IBM), Cisco, Google (GOOG) and Salesforce.com (currently countersuing Microsoft for patent infringement) want to grab their pieces of the enterprise 2.0 pie.

These social networking and collaboration competitors will aim to differentiate themselves from SharePoint, which has the advantage of being a widely-used part of the established Microsoft ecosystem, says Forrester principal analyst Rob Koplowitz.

"SharePoint 2010 now includes more social capabilities, and the value for many businesses is that it's also included with an existing, highly-integrated platform. For many organizations, that will be the right direction," he says.

Here's a rundown of the four biggest-name competitors that hope SharePoint is the wrong direction for enterprises, at least for social networking.

IBM Lotus Connections

Lotus Connections is IBM's social networking software for businesses. Like every platform in the enterprise 2.0 space, IBM's goal with Connections is to help companies unite workers, partners and customers through online social tools that anyone who uses Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging will recognize.

Lotus Connections
Lotus Connections profile page.

Connections' user interface resembles other social networking sites from Microsoft (SharePoint MySites), Cisco's Quad and Google Buzz with its profile pages, communities, activity feeds, document posting and sharing, blogs, and wikis.

IBM has a cloud-based version of Connections through its LotusLive online productivity suite, called LotusLive Connections, that has fewer features but costs significantly less (starting at $6 per month, per user) than the on-premise version, which entails servers and licenses. Click here for a breakdown of the pricing difference between Lotus and LotusLive Connections.

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Though the Lotus ecosystem is not as prevalent in enterprises as that of Office/SharePoint, Lotus and LotusLive Connections have advantages over SharePoint, says Koplowitz. These advantages include being built on open standards and being a dedicated platform that is not dependent on the larger Lotus platform, the way that SharePoint depends on Office, he says.

"IBM is taking a much more modular approach with Lotus Connections that will allow the company to update more quickly and aggressively than Microsoft, which has taken a broad integrated suite approach," says Koplowitz.

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