Today's market for Web 2.0-style collaboration and information-sharing tools for businesses is largely up in the air. Startups such as Socialtext for wikis, WordPress for blogs, and NewsGator for RSS get discussed right alongside Microsoft, Google, and IBM.
Those latter three are most top-of-mind for businesses when it comes to Enterprise 2.0 capabilities, each cited by more than a third of 250 business IT pros surveyed by InformationWeek Research.
IBM and Microsoft have the advantage of an installed base with big business, and they're busy trying to make relevant collaboration platforms. Microsoft has Office Communicator for unified communications and SharePoint for Web-based collaboration, both of which tie back into other Microsoft apps such as Exchange, Office, and SQL Server. IBM, on the other hand, recently updated its collaboration line with Lotus Notes 8 and Sametime 8 for messaging and unified communications, Connections for social networking, and a SharePoint competitor in Quickr.
Google is clearly a company to watch, and it made its first major effort last week to make its tools business-read (see story, "Google Business Apps Shows The Changing Battle For Workers' Desktops").
Open source could also play a role. An April 2006 Forrester survey of IT and business professionals found that 34% expect open source to be a viable option for next-generation content, collaboration, portal, and office tools.
Oracle, SAP, and Cisco Systems are also in the mix. Oracle has its Collaboration Suite and WebCenter Web interface; SAP announced sketchy Web 2.0 plans last month, promising collaboration capabilities such as wikis and widgets in more of its apps over the course of this year; and Cisco has its unified communications platform. Cisco even bought a social networking startup called Five Across earlier this month, which could be a sign of more deals to come. "You have serious manifest destiny here," Burton Group analyst Peter O'Kelly predicts. "I wouldn't be surprised to see more relentless consolidation because the big companies understand [collaborative applications are] where people live."
Illustration by Ryan Etter