Microsoft moves its Chatter-like OfficeTalk toward commercialization

Microsoft moves its Chatter-like OfficeTalk toward commercialization

Summary: OfficeTalk -- Microsoft's enterprise-focused microblogging technology -- may soon find a home among the company's product teams and become a shipping product and/or service.


OfficeTalk -- Microsoft's enterprise-focused microblogging technology -- may soon find a home among the company's product teams and become a shipping product and/or service.

OfficeTalk, one of the projects launched via Microsoft's Office Labs in 2010, is a social-networking tool for businesses, as the Softies have described it. From screen shots and reports, it looks and feels similar to Salesforce's Chatter or Yammer's Yammer.

Last March, the Office Labs team described OfficeTalk as a "research project" with no clear path to or promise of commercialization. By August, the team was running pilots of OfficeTalk inside Microsoft and with a few select customers.

This week, according to a blog post by Microsoft Storyteller Steve Clayton, OfficeTalk has advanced considerably. Clayton's post focuses on "The Garage," a place for Microsoft employees to hash out and incubate new ideas. The Garage is another project under Chris Pratley -- the Microsoft General Manager who also oversees Office Labs and the Envisioning Center.

Clayton quotes Office Labs Program Manager Quinn Hawkins as saying OfficeTalk has pased the Microsoft "funded incubation" stage, and now "is being considered by the product teams."

I asked Microsoft officials which teams were considering it and how/when it may become a commercial offering. Will OfficeTalk be an add-on to Dynamics CRM 2011 and/or SharePoint 2010 (or their successors)? A new standalone product? I was told the company had no more information to share at this time.

Salesforce, for its part, has made Chatter a core of its software-as-a-service offering, turning its CRM platform into a very Facebook/Twitter-like experience. Do you think Microsoft should do the same? Where and how should OfficeTalk be integrated into the Microsoft product/service line-up, in your view?

Topics: CXO, Collaboration, Microsoft, Software, IT Employment


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft moves its Chatter-like OfficeTalk toward commercialization

    For those not wanting to wait for OfficeTalk, yet looking for a product that plays well with the Microsoft platform, a product that's getting a lot of traction is Neudesic's Pulse ( Also full integration into SharePoint, AD and Dynamics CRM.
  • Taking advantage of current trend

    I think the above is pretty nice. However, I believe MS should take advantage of the current trend towards lightweight apps (distributed through app stores), by pushing for the development of these lightweight apps (as well as complex applications) first. MS could then continue to support browser based apps, pushing the industry to use them to support the above set of applications. E.g. a newspaper could focus most of its energies around downloadable apps that require subscription access, which also enjoy higher advertising revenue. The newspaper's web site could contain access to a subset of current articles, as well as full, dated articles, having a lowered user experience (e.g. having less pictures, no video or audio clips.) The newspaper's web site would serve largely as a driver of users to the newspaper's downloadable apps, and to lend global reference support to the articles it produces, so that e.g. bloggers and others can reference the articles - driving users to the newspaper's web site, and also downloadable apps..

    In the enterprise, I believe MS should do all it can to promote lightweight, downloadable apps, as well as complex applications first, and give these programs extra reach through the use of virtualization whenever needed. Therefore e.g. if someone wants to give access to database data throughout the enterprise, MS should encourage the person to use lightweight apps first, and extend ubiquitous access through virtualization if necessary. I believe even generic reader apps should be used in lieu of Intranet web sites, and be given ubiquitous access if necessary using virtualization.

    Lightweight apps are reversing the migration of development towards the browser, by devaluing the reach advantage of the latter - through the establishment of a user experience differential. Smartphones are also undermining the browser's reach advantage, by allowing users to take their apps anywhere. This bodes well for MS proprietary platforms, because it shows how MS can re-establish the value of its platforms, and make them highly relevant again - even more than before.

    The above also shows that MS doesn't have to have a strong presence on the web to remain relevant and to make lots of money. MS can wield user experience against the web, and attract developers, content producers, and enterprise computing like never before. I believe MS should wean itself away from its focus on the web as much as possible. While MS may still have a significant presence on the web, I believe it should be overwhelmingly trying to drive its customers towards apps and complex applications on its proprietary platforms, where it can increasingly expand the user experience differential, strengthening further its position..

    The above is important, because it means a large range of programs that go hand in hand with back end services, can be developed as lightweight apps, having superior user experiences, pulling users, developers, and content producers towards MS platforms. This means that if the primary driver towards computing devices is apps, rather than the browser, MS can re-establish the value of its platforms, and form an effective barrier against other proprietary platforms, as well as the browser.
    P. Douglas
  • RE: Microsoft moves its Chatter-like OfficeTalk toward commercialization

    Hi MJ,
    Check out a post that I wrote on this topic that contrasts a solution simular to OfficeTalk by a Micrsosoft partner. The same points generally applies in this case.

    Here is a snippit:
    What is really great about this technology over offering are these core differentiators:

    Potential ? This is by far the most important aspect here. The potential of integrating a range of solutions rather than just one primarily is a huge differentiator. The information is king, not the enabling technologies. So if there are cloud platforms that lock you into just there information sets and not others it demishes the potential greatly. So solutions that embrace multiple information sets by other vendors like Microsoft will prevail.
    Platform Independence ? I have the freedom to choose which platform I want to make social. Combination of vendors, platforms and repositories on premise or cloud based can be chosen. Just like with development technologies, we live in a hybrid world of a variety of different solution enabled technologies. While companies could make big bets on CRM solutions in the cloud we have to ask ourselves if we are going to put all of our socially aware capable solutions there? If not (and I believe this is the case), then we should chose solutions like Pulse that deliver that platform independence.
    Avoidance of Vendor & Platform Lock-In ? With technologies like Chatter, you are locked-in to the platform. While you can integrate to it there is a great deal of flexibility that is lost. Additionally, if one day your organization chooses to move on to the next big technology solution that replaces this capability your feeds, functionality and data are locked in Chatter. Salesforce does have API?s to retrieve the raw data but context and all the application logic you have built will be lost.
    Total Cost of Ownership ? Investment for a solution like Pulse is significantly lower if enabled across the enterprise and solutions. I don?t have to make a enterprise license agreement with one vendor to see the benefits of making my enterprise socially aware. This can be a multimillion dollar investment for an organization and is a tough sell for social capabilities, especially if it is the first foray into social.
    Salesforce Inclusive Partnerships ? Salesforce just doesn?t have much love for Microsoft or any other vendor not part of the Salesforce buddy system. While this isn?t a reason not to choose a vendor it should be a strong warning sign. Like it or not Microsoft owns the enterprise productivity desktop market today. I can?t count how many business folks I talk to that live by Excel, Word and PowerPoint. As a vendor with such large potential impact on companies it is their ethical responsibility to be aware of this and to reduce the loss of productivity by acknowledging solutions in the MSFT productivity stake and not working against it.
    In my mind those are the primary differentiators that really make this solution exciting. This post isn?t to do a formal comparison or to disprove the merits of the Chatter solution but rather highlight new solutions and their unique value proposition in making solutions socially aware.

    Mike Walker
  • RE: Microsoft moves its Chatter-like OfficeTalk toward commercialization

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  • RE: Microsoft moves its Chatter-like OfficeTalk toward commercialization

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