While products like NewsGator Social Sites focus on SharePoint as the center of Microsoft's collaboration universe, MindLink instead builds on the Lync unified communications platform.
Questions About Microsoft's Acquisition of Yammer
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Most of the discussion of social collaboration on the Microsoft platform revolves around SharePoint, but it's not the only candidate.
While third-party products like NewsGator Social Sites focus on filling the gaps in SharePoint as a social platform, another social software tool, MindLink, has grown up around Lync, Microsoft's unified communications product. SharePoint is a collaboration portal and document management system that has sprouted some social features, but Lync also provides synchronous social collaboration--in the form of instant messaging, group chat, and presence indicators--as well as voice, video, and Web conferencing capabilities.
By extending Lync's group chat functionality, MindLink's creators at Formicary Collaboration Group have created a social collaboration tool for persistent discussions, around a product or project team, for example. "Most organizations are invested heavily in Microsoft infrastructure and the Microsoft platform," said Daanish Khan, Formicary’s head of marketing and strategy. "A lot of our customers have implemented Lync, and they're starting to look social collaboration. They don't want to have to go some other tool--why pay someone else to get the same functionality like instant messaging, presence, and contact list?"
Most enterprise social networking products essentially imitate the Facebook feed as their home page, but MindLink presents a user interface that looks more like the feed monitoring dashboard in HootSuite or TweetDeck, where you can view several feeds you are following side-by-side. These might be the four top internal discussion groups you are following, but MindLink can also pull in feeds from Twitter or other sources.
The social software ecosystem around the Microsoft platform is changing now that Microsoft is buying Yammer for $1.2 billion. In combination with the improved social capabilities Microsoft is promising in the next edition of SharePoint, it's forced changes in NewsGator's strategy. By providing social software as a SharePoint application, it will offer tighter integration than Yammer can for a long time to come. Microsoft is also talking about integration between Yammer and Lync, which will present Formicary with some of the same challenges of staying a step ahead of wherever Microsoft decides to go. Since Yammer is a cloud-only application and likely to remain so, NewsGator and MindLink also have an advantage with organizations that prefer an on-premises collaboration solution.
However, Khan said Yammer is really in a related but adjacent niche, with a focus on social network and communication more than the kind of real-time collaboration MindLink offers. Messages posted into the stream can also include links and attachments. With MindLink for Outlook or MindLink for SharePoint, the message streams can also be exposed in the context of an email client or a SharePoint collaboration group (as SharePoint Web Parts). MindLink's mobile app was originally delivered for BlackBerry devices, and Formicary demonstrated an iPhone version at the Enterprise 2.0 conference last month.
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