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MindTouch Aims Take Over Your Intranet – Brief Notes

My "The Cobalt Group" desk

Previously, MindTouch primarily sold a framework for building up collaborative business applications. Now they’re putting together finished applications targeted at either specific uses – like groupware intranets – or industry verticals. Their first – out of three – product here in this space in MindTouch Collaborative Intranet.

This marketing position is subtle, but the point is to go after the application space rather than the foundation/framework/developer space. Their CEO Aaron Fulkerson has written several times about the difficulty of specifying and, thus, carving out a “collaborative networking” category – really, much of the idea of what all this “Enterprise 2.0” stuff is fussing about. A table in one of Aaron’s recent pieces draws out what makes something a business application vs. a social applications (he has his own terms for both):

Social Networks Solve Collaborative Networks Solve
Who wants to meet at the club? Who can give me access to financials, market reports and customer profiling?
What’s your favorite Mexican restaurant? What are the expectations of this project?
Why did they unfollow me? Why did we see a drop in Q3 revenue?
Dude, where is the company picnic? I thought we already did this work, where are those documents?
How was “Casablanca”? How do we cut costs and increase revenue?

MindTouch is and can be used in all sorts of web applications contexts. It’s very common to see it in shoot-outs with online community engines (this from MindTouch’s early focus on wikis), but as this new positioning shows, it’s geared up to be a SharePoint Killer as well. More than just the specific product of SharePoint itself – which rival vendors will all but describe as intranet kudzu – the whole concept of “that software groups of people use behind the firewall to collaborate” has fallen under the SharePoint concept-space: very analogously to “Office” meaning more than just Microsoft Office in the word processor, presentation, and spreadsheet category.

“Portals,” as a category also fill this intranet category, and IBM Lotus among others sells into this box as well. I rarely hear people raving about their “portals,” and it’s clear from the rate at which vendors pull features from the public web that, in most cases, the combined collaborative services that the public web brings are more pleasing that what behind-the-firewall collaborative technology does for employees. Part of this has to do with cost – public web sites are free, for the most part, compared to business apps which are not – lack of legacy support and cultural differences in use. All that said, each time I see someone like MindTouch trying to finally make intranets more like the internet with both culture and technology change, I’m hopeful we’ll finally crack it.

Disclosure: MindTouch, IBM, and Microsoft are clients.

Categories: Brief Notes, Collaborative, Enterprise Software.

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