Interesting comment below regarding a little debate between Sam Lawrence of Jive Software and Lawrence Liu of Microsoft regarding the recent SharePoint conference.
There are a couple of ways to look at how Microsoft is responding to market and customer demand for social software (let's define it for sake of argument as social software being equal to blogs, wikis, tags/bookmarks, feed syndication and social networking):
1. Office SharePoint 2007 does indeed have support for blogs and wikis "out of the box". The MySite capabilities does provide a user profile feature and some networking capabilities (e.g., colleagues, groups/distribution lists you belong to, etc). There is a social aspect to some of the search functions ("social distance"). That said, overall, what is implemented is pretty marginal compared to specialized vendors in the market. Microsoft Office (e.g., Outlook 2007) has support for feeds but the implementation is so bad, I prefer just to leave it at that. IE7 has a lightweight feed reader that does exactly what it is supposed to do (a very nice job in my opinion).
2. So if you want to wait 2-3 years for the next release of Office and SharePoint to get better social software - that could be the perfect direction to pursue - if you do not have short-run requirements you might be able to wait and be happy that in the long run, you were able to leverage your existing platform investment. If you cannot wait - then you have some options.
3. You could run out to CodePlex and try some of the solutions that have been created within that shared source environment (such as the Community Kit). However, it is important to understand the warning label. It reads: this software is not supported by Microsoft itself, has not been through the same quality assurance as other Microsoft products and there is no guarantee that these extensions will be supported down the road in future product releases. So a good way to look at it would be "these functions are as if my own internal IT team built them". If you take that approach - then you might be very happy to deploy these extensions and improve what Microsoft delivered out of the box. Problem solved.
4. If CodePlex is not your "cup of tea" then you can look for third-party vendors that have integrated their social software tools with SharePoint. Socialtext, NewsGator and Atlassian (Confluence wiki) are examples. These vendors are investing a lot of time, money and resources to deliver a high-level of integration. In some cases, there are formal partnerships in place. Again - if these options address gaps you have identified as critical - case closed.
5. If you're still not happy with those particular vendors - some companies actually prefer not to be told what third-parties they need to use (e.g., maybe you have already settled on an open source wiki or a different feed vendor) - then you might consider specialized vendors that do not introduce another large platform conflict (e.g., IBM with Lotus Connections that might raise some concerns) but someone that might be used "strategically in a tactical manner"). That is, something that will last 3 years or so until your preferred platform becomes acceptable rand you transition off the tactical vendor over time back (maybe you retain them for certain situations such as external solutions). Then you might look at vendors such as Attensa, Awareness Networks, Connectbeam, Jive Software, HiveLive, SelectMinds, Traction Software, or open source efforts such as Drupal, Scuttle, Wordpress, etc.
6. If you have some concerns over these vendors (e.g., longevity), then you might look at what IBM and Oracle/BEA are offering. But - you might have more surface area in terms of a conflict in your overall platform direction that just social software. So it could be an option - but one that requires perhaps some more cycles spent on pro and con trade-offs outside the social software space.
But the mouse trap analogy in the post below strikes me more of a head fake. If you have business requirements that need to be addressed in the short-run, then IT organizations should not "stiff arm" their business areas by alluding to capabilities that are in the next release when that release is 2-3 years away. An over-simplified outline such as the one I fashioned together above is perhaps one that might help feed into a decision process that ties into other architectural and organizational factors.
There are common arguments about costs, integration, overlap whenever a new vendor is introduced into an existing IT environment - and those are valid points - but few organizations actually have done the due diligence to answer the deeper questions business and IT areas should be asking themselves: how much more will it cost? what's the cost of waiting? is the business benefit of deploying something now greater than the burden of introducing a new vendor and set of tools? The point is to engage in a conversation that is focused on business solutions and the pro/con sides of various options.
Blind allegiance to any vendor is the real mouse trap.
The other reason for this posting is to address the concern that some of our customers have about Microsoft "not doing enough" in the area of social computing for business. As I had alluded to above, we are doing a variety of very exciting things, but rather than announce and talk about them in a random or disjointed way, we will do so in a holistic and coordinated manner at the appropriate time. For now, I'd like to offer a metaphor that has resonated well with our customers and partners alike -- that is, the corporate enterprise market is Microsoft's kitchen, and Office is the bread while SharePoint is the butter that makes everything (not just the bread) better. We are deeply committed in helping our customers and partners maximize the investments that they've made with our bread and butter. I realize that it's tempting for some of you to consider the growing number of morsels to big chunks of cheese that other vendors may be offering in our kitchen. All I ask is that rather than rushing to take a bite of that cheese, you step back and take a careful look at the bigger picture to see if there's a mousetrap setup around that cheese.