A bottom up open source and top down proprietary collaboration platform, enterprise wiki Socialtext and Microsoft's SharePoint Portal Server, have come together in SocialPoint. Built with Socialtext 2.0 Wiki Web Services and SharePoint Web Parts, SocialPoint allows SharePoint to authenticate to multiple wikis, as well as display recent changes and pages and allow editing within the portal.
Ross explained on his blog, in a somewhat apologetic tone, that it was a practical and profit-driven step to work with what he called a "convicted monopolist." Microsoft makes nice, saying that SocialPoint is a great example of how the SharePoint platform can "leverage a best-of-breed Enterprise 2.0 application based on open source."
Ross claimed that Socialtext is the best-of-breed enterprise wiki product today, and integration with SharePoint can help grow the market for open source solutions and offer more choice to buyers. However, SharePoint 2007 (the current version is 2003) will incorporate many of the Web 2.0 collaboration features. Ross quotes Larry Cannell, who runs collaboration at Ford Motor Company, about the next version of SharePoint: "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," he wrote.
"Longer term, with the positioning we have as the best of breed wiki on market, some people will stick with whatever SharePoint comes with, but when more businesses run on wikis, they will look for best of breed offer," Ross told me in a phone interview.
Microsoft is developing features in response to two things," he added. "It is competing against WebSphere and IBM solutions because the solution people offer up wikis and weblog style solutions as way to get larger portal sales, and from the bottom up by open source wiki offers."
I asked Ross to support his best of breed claim. "The one thing that can't be argued with is we were first and the thought leaders in the space. Our goal is to be the best of breed wiki offering for enterprises. It's been our focus since the first day. The important point is that as the market changes next year with more incumbents addressing the opportunity, there is a big opportunity. Gartner estimates that by 2008, 50 percent of enterprises will use wikis."
Best of breed should translate into strong company growth and market leadership. Ross would not disclose revenues, but said his company has 20 percent year-over-year growth. "We know more about getting wiki adoption than anybody else, and what is making wikis mainstream is the solid open source history that has been build up," Ross said. "The point is over time from bottom up adoption of open source wikis and with the growth of Wikipedia, there is more understanding and awareness of what wikis are. Now there is enough of a base of users with experience that they are teaching others. Managers are looking at wikis as serious tools and putting support behind them. Oracle, BEA, IBM, Microsoft, SAP and others won't compete in best of breed, but on their own strengths and benefiting from tight coupling with rest of their suites. One thing has changed, the openness through service-oriented architecture and the ecosystems that surround large vendors make it possible to do things like SocialPoint, and the end customer wins, because they have choice."
In the meantime, Ross and his team of 30 employees will have to run hard to stay ahead of many competitors from the bottom and the top.