Rivals IBM Lotus and Microsoft are competing to push social networking and collaboration tools for business at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston this week.
IBM Lotus has released its previously announced suite of services and Microsoft has built around its SharePoint Server.
In January, IBM Lotus introduced social networking tool Connections as part of its push to develop social software for business users. This has now been released, and the company said Quickr, its reworking of the QuickPlace team sharing platform, would ship next week.
IBM also introduced Info 2.0, a way for companies to extract data from applications and databases using syndication technology and use it in mashups. Microsoft unveiled some of its social software efforts, although observers have said they are a bit rougher around the edges than the two finished products Lotus unveiled.
Microsoft's foundation for its social software is Office SharePoint Server 2007, and the company has made available early releases and its Community Kit for SharePoint that includes Enhanced Blog, Enhanced Wiki, ChatterBox Ajax and Tag Cloud, on its Codeplex website. The tools are designed to let users create community websites.
The software giant also said it was committing to build 100 social networking business applications before June 2008 for use inside the company. One currently in development is SharePointPedia, which helps users find SharePoint technical and support information from both Microsoft and other sources. The company also is using personal websites call My Site, wikis and mashups to foster collaboration.
The firm plans to build its social networking capabilities such as expertise search, blogs, RSS feeds, and profiles into the SharePoint platform, according to company officials. Analysts say both vendors are starting to move corporate users from the buzz stage into bleeding edge adoption but that deployments are measured.
Yankee Group analyst Josh Holbrook said: "We are seeing adoption among business units but not corporate wide. And right now we’re seeing a lot of one-off or point solutions, but not adoption of a broad suite of services." He expected IBM Lotus to move in front with Connections and Microsoft to be a fast follower.
Connections pulls together IBM's BluePages, an end-user directory for profiles, Dogear, a bookmark sharing application, Activities, a sophisticated to do list, Communities, for pulling together groups of users and Roller, a blog server developed within the Apache Software Foundation.
It is a set of server-based services, so it is not a new platform to install but one that can be added to existing tools through integration with the forthcoming Notes 8 and Sametime 7.5.1 clients that are based on the Lotus Expeditor and Eclipse client frameworks.
In addition, IBM said Info 2.0 would bring "mashup" capabilities to enterprise data. The technology is coming from IBM's data management division.
"What [IBM is] working on is starting to go get data out of applications, databases and other enterprises data sources and make that available in things, think RSS and Atom feeds, and open up the data and make it available to mix and match," said Carol Jones, an IBM fellow.
Jones said IBM had not announced a ship data but the tools initially would be available for trial on IBM's alphaWorks site.
In another moment at the conference, both Microsoft and IBM admitted to feeling the heat from Google in software as a service.
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