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juli 27, 2012

The social arena match begins!

Is SharePoint 2013 catching up with IBM Connections?

Recently Microsoft released the SharePoint 2013 public beta. And on july 16th there was a press release with Steve Ballmer's announcement of Office 2013.

Many are eager to stress the point that this beta release is now much more social than SharePoint 2010 was. Up until now it was generally agreed that it was more document centric (which it does very well) than people centric, and IBM Connections has therefore been leading the social entprise market.

With acquiring Skype, and more recently Yammer and now also announcing Facebook and LinkedIn integration in Office 13 Microsoft is clearly making a huge effort to enter the social arena.

And indeed it seems there are many social improvements. The newsfeed provides social features such as commenting and liking. And also an embedded experience for document/media preview so there is no need to open a new window and you are not taken out of the context. It is possible to do statusupdates including hashtags and @mentions, to all or specific groups (sites members).

Users are able to follow sites, documents and hashtags (the latter are also searchable). Communities have been introduced, something that was clearly needed and they even include some form of gamification through badges.

Since it has always been strong with document management, it is no surprise Microsoft came up with Skydrive Pro. Documents are automaticall saved to Skydrive by default and allows users to sync document libraries to their computer for offline access. Instead of granting someone access to files, this has been renamed to 'sharing' which is ofcourse a much more social term.

Allthough Yammer isn't directly visible in SharePoint 2013, it has become part of Office 13. Microsoft seams to be buying these social companies to use them as a free gateway to paid premium services. Hotmail leading to Office 365, Skype to Lync, and Yammer to SharePoint?

What does that mean for IBM Connections?

Many of these SharePoint 2013 social features have been around for a while in IBM Connections, or will be available in Connections 4, which is being released in beta on Greenhouse today!

Communities, Blogs, person card info everywhere, and microblogging through statusupdates has been key functionality of IBM Connections. Connections 4 will be enhanced with searchable statusupdates with hashtags and Communities will get many great improvements such as a Community Calendar. The Activity feed will give an embedded experience so files and media can be viewed directly without changing windows, and allowing for workflow applications to integrate into Connections. And Mail and Calendar will be available straight from the browser as well.

Similar features, but what of the future?

So feature wise, the two really start to be more alike. The same thing happened with email programs. All vendors grew more closely together, up to the point where since Lotus Notes 8 - and especially iNotes - many couldn't really tell at first glance if they were looking at Outlook or Lotus Notes.

But, will the social features in SharePoint really cut it? Is it still in time for Microsoft SharePoint to position itself as social software ? What will IBM do in response? Only time can tell. What it tells me now though, is that social is really the arena where the players will fight for their customers. Social is now and it's the future. Social is here to stay. And it is going to be interesting.

But for now, we still have to wait for the final release of SharePoint 2013. It is believed that it will take at least another 6 months, as that is usually the case for Microsoft between the public beta and final release. I am also curious what IBM will do with Connections after release 4.

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