There's a great article in Forbes about Jive taking a collaboration fight to Microsoft's SharePoint play. Its primary weapon? Ease of use and ease of integration.
[Jive's] strategy for competing with giants: work alongside them. Oracle and SAP bundle Jive's discussion forum software into their portal applications. The version of Clearspace released in April lets users search for and link to SharePoint content from within Clearspace and sync their Clearspace and Microsoft Outlook calendars. For customers who use both, Jive becomes the user-friendly portal for SharePoint's sophisticated but clunky file system.
Earlier this week I heard the same said of Atlassian by at least two companies with whom I was meeting. Atlassian makes excellent products that are easy to use. People want to use them rather than being forced to use them. In both cases business users are as likely to recommend the product as IT.
Jive and Atlassian,, demonstrate an absolute essential for winning the software wars of the 21st Century: You've got to have easy distribution, and you've got to be mind-numbingly easy to use.
Jive cuts itself off at the knees a bit with distribution by not embracing a broader open-source strategy, but it's trying to make up for that with distribution deals with Oracle and others. Good strategy, but I think it could be doing better if it were more easily picked up, tweaked, and embedded in other products by making more of its code open source.
Atlassian isn't open source at all, but makes its productsthat it mimics many of the benefits of open-source distribution. Best of all, it's just fantastic software.
The future of enterprise software looks a lot less like "enterprise" in the traditional sense: Stodgy, clunky, safe. It looks much more like the free-wheeling web, with appropriate security and robustness baked in. Jive and Atlassian seem to be doing this well, and are being rewarded for their troubles.
It's a lesson for the open sourcerors: Source code, alone, is no substitute for an exceptional product. If you can get both, you win. But many companies have shown that an excellent product will find distribution, even if handicapped by proprietary licensing.