Firms take aim at Enterprise 2.0 market

The goal: meld corporate data with social networks, mashups

Microsoft and a slew of other companies will roll out new tools this week designed to help companies meld internal data with social networks, mashups or other tools like iGoogle that originated in the Web 2.0 world.

The aim of these new technologies, which are being unveiled at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference that begins this week in Boston, are to help foster the adoption of Web 2.0 tools for specific business processes and applications while infusing them with the security and management features embedded in traditional enterprise tools like Microsoft's SharePoint Server.

Microsoft and several partners are announcing new social networking, RSS feeds and other Web 2.0 technologies that allow integration with SharePoint Server 2007 so users can integrate internal company data with outward facing applications like external customer and partner communities. Awareness, NewsGator Technologies and WorkLight, for example, are all announcing updated versions of their Enterprise 2.0 tools integrated with SharePoint. Microsoft will also announce nine partners who have released or will release Enterprise 2.0 tools integrated with SharePoint. And Serena Software plans to offer up on updates to its enterprise mashup server on Tuesday.

In addition, Microsoft on Thursday is expected to detail a new enterprise social networking prototype called TownSquare now being developed by Microsoft Office Labs. TownSquare is an enterprise news feed that allows users to receive news about managers, friends and colleagues in one place, Microsoft said. Microsoft also plans to announce a new open source project for the development of podcasting applications in SharePoint Server.

WorkLight will roll out WorkLight for SharePoint, which allows employees to access and update SharePoint from popular Internet consumer tools like Windows Live, iGoogle and Facebook. The software allows users to access information like documents, updates and contact information from Web and desktop gadgets running on different consumer-oriented Web tools, said David Lavenda, WorkLight's vice president of marketing and product strategy. Users also can view and revise enterprise application data from secure gadgets running as SharePoint Web Parts, allowing the to do daily tasks like time reporting and purchase approvals from their SharePoint dashboard, he added.

"[Users] don't have to dig for the documents; they are right there in the home page or RSS feed you have in front of you," Lavenda said. "WorkLight allows users to use SharePoint as another back-end system so they can do things like get an update of all the documents that affect their jobs on iGoogle."

For example, he said, a salesperson could use iGoogle with a WorkLight gadget to receive updates about products from multiple back-end systems, including those that show sales and product demand in a particular region. Then the user could directly order products from iGoogle and have them shipped to a particular customer, he added.

"It is really from start to finish a full business process that impacts the bottom line," Lavenda said. "These are the types of applications we are seeing."

For its part, Awareness will announce platform integration with SharePoint for internal applications with Awareness-developed social networks on the Web. Awareness has packaged its widgets to operate as Web Parts that can be used to monitor the content of external Web communities. Thus, users can monitor community content, contribute content - such as creating a post, starting a wiki or responding to a discussion - or search content from directly within SharePoint.

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