Tech Giants Move Toward Social Networks

by Jim Berkowitz on November 4, 2009

Here are several excerpts from an article about what a panel of leading tech vendors had to say about the future of social networking tools at the Collaborate 2.0 Conference, Tech Giants Move Toward Social Networks:

As the Facebook generation becomes a bigger part of the enterprise, companies face the challenge of implementing increasingly familiar social network technologies in concert with legacy systems.

That was one of the themes expressed by a panel of leading vendors here at the Collaborate 2.0 conference sponsored by SD Forum.

“In IT, a user is a login; on Facebook, a user is a profile with a picture and other details. That’s pretty empowering. End users are driving change,” said Chuck Ganapathi, senior vice president of products at Salesforce.com

The next generation of IT applications may well leverage something like Facebook’s look and feel for a logical reason. “Facebook has over 300 million users now and is on the way to training half a billion people on what is really a pretty sophisticated application — there’s a lot going on there,” Ganapathi said.

And as these collaborative, social network technologies inevitably spread, Ganapathi said a key issue to be resolved is IT control versus user power.

“There are lots of tools today to make the conversations in your company more social, but what about the data that’s sitting there in Excel, in ERP, in e-mail? How you make that data social is going to be key.”

Matt Thompson, general manager of Microsoft’s developer and platform evangelism in Silicon Valley, said the software giant is ready to make moves in the social network/collaboration space beyond its already successful SharePoint software. He said Microsoft Research has about 25 different social collaboration projects they’ve put under one group called FUSE Labs.

“You’re going to see some innovative stuff under social collaboration,” he said. “We have a vision for where this is going in the future. Video and telepresence is a key piece. And you’ll see a lot more interoperability as well. This can’t be a single stack.”

“Internal IT is a very fertile ground to disrupt,” Thompson said. “The key is there won’t be multiple social graphs. I don’t think Facebook realizes the big role they have.”

That said, Thompson gave Facebook big props for opening up its platform to let users take their Facebook identity with them when visiting other sites.

“Facebook Connect was a very smart thing,” he said. “Facebook Connect is growing faster than Facebook.com.”

Thompson also took note of Twitter, which he said he loves. Like Facebook Connect, he said a huge percentage of users use the service without Twitter.com as a starting point.

“They’re delivering collaboration at 140 characters wherever the user may be,” he said.

Like Microsoft, Cisco is investing in multiple social network and collaborative areas, including a portfolio of nine businesses in the incubation stage.

“Our thesis is that we’re on the cusp of a big transformation like the Internet in the ’90s around the future of work, putting people and productivity back into the equation,” said Didier Moretti, vice president of business incubation in Cisco’s Emerging Technologies group.

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