Both Atlassian and Newsgator are announcing partnerships today with Microsoft to help further build out Sharepoint using Atlassian Confluence, their Wiki, and Newsgatorâ€™s suite of tools, most notably their Socialsites product. At the same conference last year, SocialText announced its own Sharepoint integration solution.
Sharepoint integration is a no-brainer for almost any enterprise software company. With deployments totaling closer to 80million seats, it is feasible to build an entire business based off of servicing Sharepoint, and a lot of companies do just that. Newsgator and Atlassian have built fantastic businesses without having to focus solely, or at all, on Sharepoint, but both have undoubtedly been feeling some pressure from customers to offer a higher level of integration.
In order to open up market access, both Atlassian and Newsgator would be expected to bear the brunt of the technical integration. The economic benefit for these companies is quite immediate and significant.
The question that weighs most heavily is: is there enough incentive for Microsoft to participate in this partnership in any significant way? The immediate economics arenâ€™t obvious for Microsoft, which leaves us with two options:
1: Microsoft has a new long-term partnering strategy
This could be significant. With its massive installed base, Sharepoint has its own economics, but it is also becoming increasingly antiquated. While there is no pressing short-term need for a strategic shift on Sharepoint, there is a very real need for long-term innovation.
By creating more partnering opportunities, Microsoft can maintain the relevance of Sharepoint as a platform while offering relatively low-cost upgrade opportunities to customers. The ecosystem of addons and extensions for Sharepoint are not what we would consider customer-friendly. They are typically wrapped in service-laden packages and offer disjointed integration.
By embracing more Enterprise 2.0 companies and creating a top-tier pool of integration options for customers, Microsoft can bring significant new value (beyond the low-quality options now available), embrace a significant new technical and business trend, and it is also an opportunity to augment the overall value of Sharepoint.
By focusing on complementary partnerships, Microsoft can focus on building a much stronger core platform and can leave innovation up to outside players. Innovation is expensive and risky, and Microsoft would be well advised to stay out of that end of the business.
2: This is a blip on the radar.
Here is the less optimistic option.
ISV partnering deals are certainly not new to Microsoft. Why are these two announcements any different? They are essentially two disjointed approaches with some notional overlap, which means they are not complementary as a package.
How serious is Microsoft about these deals? Will they actively promote and market Newsgator and Confluence? That remains to be seen, but Microsoft has jumped in with two of the most significant names in Enterprise 2.0, and it would be foolish of them to let these relationships fizzle to any degree.
When I spoke with them, neither Atlassian or Newsgator had any concrete knowledge of how Microsoft intends to promote this partnership, which might mean that Microsoft does not intend to promote it in any real way.
What’s next for Atlassian and Newsgator? I’m not sure, but I do have some thoughts on what they should be doing.
Atlassian and Newsgator are two established leaders in the respective markets. Both have significant market access, well tuned sales operations and strong product roadmaps. Atlassian specifically has fantastic developer relations, and have built a very pluggable and easily integrated product.
Atlassian and Newsgator should be seeking out their own partnerships, and should be doing deals around their own platforms. More significant news than their Sharepoint integrations would be the announcement of a Newsgator/Atlassian partnership. What would be even more interesting would be a series of announcements in the next 12 months putting these two companies at the center of Enterprise 2.0. Both Atlassian and Newsgator are above this sort of base level ISV partnership, and deserve far more significant participation from Microsoft.
Despite this, these deals are significant and useful in the short-term, and this is big news for both Newsgator and Atlassian.
Update: I will be speaking with a Microsoft spokesperson this afternoon to find out exactly what their intentions are.