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Competitors, observers sound off on Microsoft-Yammer and SharePoint

Industry watchers and competitors see Microsoft’s purchase of Yammer as meaning everything from validating their approaches to enterprise social collaboration to helping SharePoint play catch-up.

Microsoft’s recent announcement that it purchased Yammer, the Software as a Service (SaaS) enterprise social media company, has competitors in the enterprise collaboration space speculating as to what the $1.2 billion deal means for Microsoft’s SharePoint collaboration platform as well as for the rest of the enterprise social media space.

While consultants and analysts had speculated the move would either help consolidate Microsoft’s efforts in enterprise social media or simply point to gaps in an upcoming version of SharePoint, competitors saw the move as validating their own approaches to workplace collaboration.

Yammer, a company launched in 2008, describes its product as being as easy to use as Facebook and Twitter but intended for business collaboration. The company counts more than 80% of Fortune 500 companies as clients and nearly 4 million people reportedly using its free version. collected some additional reaction from a handful of other industry players:

Benjamin Mestrallet, founder and CEO of eXo, a Platform as a Service (PaaS) provider of enterprise social and collaboration products in San Francisco:
The fact that Microsoft is purchasing Yammer clearly means three things: SharePoint hasn’t delivered the enterprise social capabilities that organizations are increasingly demanding; while Yammer has been successful attracting individual users, the company has continued to struggle at the enterprise level, where IT organizations are still concerned about integration, managing social collaboration and security; and Microsoft is willing to spend $1.2 billion to play catch up.

Yammer may enable Microsoft to offer a “freemium” social service, but it’s going to have a hard time cost-effectively attaching SharePoint to that service because Yammer is multi-tenant and SharePoint is not. They’ll sort out the integration eventually, but probably not quickly.

An attendee at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston who asked to remain anonymous, reacting to speculation about the deal:
Microsoft will destroy Yammer. I’m not renewing our contract.

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Tommy Ahlers, vice president of social collaboration at Citrix, a Santa Clara, Calif., vendor of enterprise collaboration products:
This move is yet another sign of the trend we have been seeing: Companies are looking for collaborative work platforms. These platforms offer more in-depth work tools than the traditional enterprise social network tools have been offering. Enterprise collaboration takes place when you are not only talking about work but getting real work done. 

If Microsoft combines Yammer with SharePoint and Office365, it will be playing in the collaborative work platform space. Citrix will remain different because we not only let people collaborate and work in documents, but also let them create their own apps for projects and processes.

Chris McNulty, strategic product manager for SharePoint at Aliso Viejo, Calif., software company Quest:
Social is an increasingly important driver in enterprise collaboration, and Microsoft’s reinvestment in SharePoint and acquisition of Yammer will further accelerate this. What Yammer can bring to SharePoint is rich collaboration functionality and better access via desktop, mobile, cloud and tablet apps, all of which will accelerate SharePoint use and adoption. The deal also plays into a growing trend of integrating social applications into the SharePoint platform -- as we’ve seen with TripIt, Amazon, SlideShare, Twitter apps, Quest Web Parts, et cetera. 

But although people will want to move, they’ll also be waiting to see the “upgrade” path from SharePoint 2013 to SharePoint 2013+Yammer. It would take a herculean effort to get Yammer integrated into the next SharePoint release, so as a backup option it’s likely there will be an improved integration pack at the time of release. The bottom line is the benefits and implementation timeline of SharePoint plus Yammer must be made crystal clear to SharePoint customers. If it’s not, it’s possible they’ll wait a year, or, worse, until the next new version, SharePoint 2016.

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