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March 15, 2008

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Lawrence Liu

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!


Lawrence “Mr. Metaphor” Liu
Senior Technical Product Manager for Community and Social Computing
Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies

Gia Lyons

Actually, our CUSTOMERS focus on "either SharePoint or us". I'm usually presenting to our mutual customers after your salesforce has been there, and believe me, THEY focus on feature/function comparisons much more than anyone else I know, based on the re-education I always must do with our customers.

I continually explain to my customers that IBM Lotus Connections in particular complements SharePoint. In fact, we've posted on IBM developerWorks an example of how to integrate LC with SharePoint and LCS.

You want to partner? Our development team would love to provide OOB hooks into SharePoint for Lotus Connections (a customer request we'd be happy to meet), but want to do it using your REST API, the way we've done it with Confluence, SocialText, and our own stuff.

Lawrence Liu

Gia, I presume that you're with IBM even though you didn't indicate that anywhere in your comment. Sure, IBM Connections may add some value to the current version of SharePoint with its Community and Dogear features, but it overlaps with SharePoint quite a bit with its Profiles, Blogs, and Activities features. So, it's not as perfect a layer of frosting over SharePoint as, say, NewsGator Social Sites. :-) Our APIs are well documented at the MOSS Dev Center (http://msdn.microsoft.com/MOSS). If your dev team has any questions, have them ping me directly, and I'll do everything I can to help. Of course, our dev/prog forum at http://mssharepointforums.com has a 75+% answer rate, so that might actually be a more efficient channel for dev questions.

-LL

Gia Lyons

Yep, I'm with IBM. And saying that you have profiles, blogs, and Activities features in SharePoint kind of propagates the whole feature/function comparison issue, doesn't it? In the end, every vendor has most of what our customers need, so checkboxes in vendor columns don't help with the decision-making process. That's why I always encourage customers to judge based on the user experience. Having a feature isn't enough - it's the user experience that makes the difference these days.

I'll leave it to our development team to discuss any decisions they may or may not have made to stick to integration with 3rd party solutions that publish a REST API. :)

Lawrence Liu

Gia, I brought up the features comparison only because you indicated that you have been trying to convince customers that Lotus Connections complements SharePoint. Given the feature overlaps and the inconsistent/unintegrated UX between the two products, it's not clear to me what your pitch would be though I would love to learn more. :-) Customers tell me that they want an integrated UX -- for instance, when someone searches and finds a document in SharePoint, he/she should be able to click on the document author's name and see that person's profile page. If there's additional "social metadata" (e.g. tags, interests, expertise, communities, etc.) for that person from a 3rd party product, all of that info should be integrated into the same profile page. And that's exactly what NewsGator Social Sites provides on top of SharePoint.

-LL

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