Again, I want to thank Lawrence for taking the time to respond to an earlier post.
A few points to clarify: My statement regarding "blind allegiance" applies to any vendor (large or small). So there was no context specific to Microsoft.
Also, regarding "what business problem(s) they're trying to solve" - any credible vendor I talk to, or that customer's tell me that they've talked to, walk in the door trying to solve a business issue. Whether it's Microsoft, IBM, Traction, Jive, Connectbeam, etc - they are all talking to customers or potential customers about business challenges (e.g., improving productivity, process performance). So I think that statement is a little disingenuous to others out there with very credible solutions. I would point people to a post from 9/14/2007 "Will Microsoft Become Facebook for the Enterprise?".
Finally, the point I was trying to make (perhaps poorly) is that decision criteria should not be buried in vendors and products but in a reference architecture model that includes principles, technical positions and templates (or blueprints). For instance, if an enterprise has a principle which states that it will invest in technologies and services that are mature, stable, secure, and proven in the field - then generalized tools will likely suffice. If that same organization has a principle that states that technologies with a potential for competitive and market advantage are acceptable for deployment - then emerging tools will likely be pursued. You can also set principles which state a preference for a strategic vendor which would rationalize tools that are not best-of-breed. But you could also state a principle which indicates tools will be acquired that meet business requirements which leaves the door open for specialized tools. When an organization establishes a collection of such principles it removes the discussion from vendors and product features (where you often end up chasing your tail) and anchors the debate on how to best address business needs.
That said, I do agree with you that it is important for SharePoint to continue building out a robust partner ecosystem. I would like to see a REST model for instance and more options for people to integrate other tools (not just NewsGator but also Attensa and KnowNow). The Atlassian Confluence integration is a another good example - I'd like to see more agreements like that which would include an alternative blog option, a tag/bookmark option, and other types of social networks tools. I think it is also important that the SharePoint enhancements available on Codeplex be positioned as product extensions with formal support, formal future support, and formal quality assurance.
IBM needs pursue a similar strategy. For organizations that are considering Lotus Connections but do not want to look at Notes/Domino or Quickr, IBM needs to offer a collection of well-integrated partner solutions (see this post - Lotusphere 2008: Social Computing Chess Match).
Senior Technical Product Manager for Community and Social Computing
Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies
Insight comments, Mike, as always. I’d like to clarify that I’m *not* asking customers to have “blind allegiance” to us -- they’re too smart for that, and I would only be insulting their intelligence. But I am asking customers to step back and assess what business problem(s) they’re trying to solve. For example, does having tags and a tag cloud on a blog really make that much of a difference for the business problem that a customer is trying solve? To you and me, in a generic sense, it’s clear that those features do help with discovery and navigation of content for some blogs and wikis. But again, what matters more is what business problem the customer is trying to solve. Our competitors, especially Jive and IBM, keep focusing on the issues of “either SharePoint or us” and “SharePoint doesn’t do this or that, but we do” when the focus really should be on the customer’s problem(s). Moreover, it’s not SharePoint vs. them; it’s SharePoint + our partners vs. them. I will openly admit that we don’t have every cool feature du jour, but that’s because we take (and will continue to take) a platform approach with SharePoint. RSS feeds in SharePoint are a good example of a “platform feature” – they’re everywhere, and they’re seamlessly integrated. Tags and other social computing capabilities will be “baked in” in a similar way in the future. We work with our key partners to not only fill our existing gaps but also to ensure that there’s reasonable upgradability or interoperability when we eventually fill those gaps in a future version of SharePoint. Jive and IBM are trying to wedge (a la cheese ) themselves into the SharePoint “pie” by focusing on feature-to-feature comparisons while we’re working hard with our partners to provide the right frosting (or Cool Whip) to solve our customers’ problems. And quick frankly, I would be happy to partner with Jive (and IBM as well) if they ever decide to take the frosting approach rather than the wedge. That's why we partnered with Atlassian even though they run on a completely non-Microsoft stack. It was simply the right thing to do for our joint customers. You can expect more partnership announcements from us soon!