The first tutorial this morning at The Enterprise 2.0 show here in Boston was Social Computing Platforms: IBM and Microsoft. It was a duel of demos, not as open or back-and-forth a discussion as I’d hoped. But the general concession during the event and in the hallways afterwards was that Microsoft was showed up by IBM…thoroughly.
The Lotus demo was first. Lotus Connections is just coming out in version 2.0 and has a fairly complete set of capabilities for social networking, bookmarking, tagging, communities and blogging. The UI is clean and modern and the presenter, Suzanne Minnassian, did a great job sticking with her user scenario and showing how Connections can be used.
Then there was SharePoint. Microsoft SharePoint is of course lots of things – it’s a basic ECM product, it’s a portal and it has some nascent social computing features. But this demo was only to focus on those features, and they’re really not competition for Lotus Connections at this point. And just how nascent these features are was clearly evident this morning, in a demo that also included partner technologies and open source code. It was too technical and showed how difficult SharePoint can be to configure.
To be fair, comparing SharePoint and Connections is really not comparing apples to apples. SharePoint hasn’t reached the level of market penetration it has because of its social software features. Microsoft positions SharePoint as a platform and that partner technologies work better to customize it for specific verticals. There’s some truth to this, but the story will no doubt change as SharePoint gets more social in future releases.
I met with a Rob Curry, a product manager for SharePoint, this afternoon. He wouldn’t comment on specifics in the SharePoint road map but we can be pretty sure that the next version, expected as part of Office 14 late in 2009, will go much further down the social softwar path. In the meantime, SharePoint is still a juggernaut. Can IBM make some hay with its social software lead to stop that?