This morning we released SocialPoint, or Socialtext running on SharePoint. At first, this may seem counter-intuitive for a company like Socialtext. SharePoint is coming out with wikis and blogs in their 2007 version, why embrace and extend? Let me give you my personal reasons.
First of all, the humanizing of Microsoft has changed my attitude about the convicted monopolist. I believe that great people can work to change organizations, not just from Ray Ozzie on down. I'd rather be part of communities of change. I'll still be a stalwart critic of the organization, but know I will have constructive conversations as a result.
Second, I believe that our Open Source solutions cooperating with Microsoft may grow the Open Source community as a whole. Most people won't see this in Microsoft's best interest. I do. Some people won't see this in Open Source's best interest. I do.
Third, SharePoint 2007 is an incumbent entry into the market that validates and grows the category. There is an increasing role for the best-of-breed wiki in the long term. Markets reward choice.
Fourth, the short-term role for a best-of-breed wiki the works with Sharepoint is immediately apparent. Here's what Larry Cannell, who runs collaboration at Ford Motor Company, had to say about the next version of SharePoint:
However, this highlights a potential risk of leveraging SharePoint for use cases like blogs and wikis. While SharePoint can provide scalable services that standard blog engines may struggle to support, there could be other tactical issues (in addition to the lack of support for wiki links) that are exposed and can not be resolved until a capability is built into the platform (which could be a long time given release cycles).
These nagging questions, along with the broadly assumed definition of "enterprise" to mean an intranet running all Microsoft products, left me unsure whether Microsoft will become an enterprise Web 2.0 company any time soon. While I believe a platform like SharePoint 2007 could easily position Microsoft to deliver enterprise-grade Web 2.0 services, I think this may be difficult for them as long as the Office and SharePoint teams appear to be so inwardly focused.
Fifth, there is the profit motive, balanced by freedom. This will sell more seats of both Socialtext and SharePoint. More users and users as developers can choose, even in an IT environment.
This wasn't the easiest decision, but whenever faced with a difficult one, just listen to your customers. Here's what the first SocialPoint customer had to say:
"We are also very excited about the possibility of integrating Socialtext with our growing Microsoft SharePoint installation. Combining the structure of SharePoint with the open, flexible features of Socialtext's wiki is a great solution for supporting teamwork."
Right now, I'm intently listening to our community. The decision is if we should undertake another first with uncertain benefits, if we should release the first SharePoint Web Parts under an Open Source License.