Automattic
You've just sold your company, Oddpost, to Yahoo for use in their next generation of email web client and gone on to create their developer network. You are given credit for being one of the first people to incorporate what is to become known as AJAX into a product. What do you do next? If you are Toni Schneider, you move into the exploding world of enterprise blogging. Swiss-born and Stanford-educated Schneider, along with his new company Automattic -- which develops WordPress and operates WordPress.com -- are set to push the WordPress community into the enterprise. With a strong knowledge of WordPress and their hands dirty in the Open Source Software (OSS) community, Automattic partnered with Enterprise Web 2.0 solutions provider, KnowNow, to offer enterprise-class blog authoring and intelligence tools (press release). Why partner with KnowNow? As Schneider points out, Automattic is good at building the publishing systems, supporting them, and making them scale. KnowNow has the ever more important enterprise credibility, plus some strong complements. So there's two big wins here for Automattic. KnowNow has the rolodex and the sales force Automattic longs for. Secondly, KnowNow brings important product complements which, as Intel's coming SuiteTwo demonstrates, are increasingly important for the enterprise customers. "Our enterprise customers trust us to help them make sense of the Web 2.0 landscape. They want us to provide them with rich publishing tools, like blog authoring platforms, to create highly collaborative and productive environments," said Todd Rulon-Miller, KnowNow's head honcho. Making sense of the Web 2.0 landscape is indeed difficult for enterprise customers. I mean, these are wildly divergent worlds and personalities. The safest thing for competitive enterprise software vendors to do has been to acquire successful players. But flip over to the enterprise procurement side and the options are thin on the ground and the repercussions of failure big, expensive, and scary. Thus we have partnerships like Intel's SuiteTwo brand lending, collect and conquer behavior from the smaller players like Automattic and KnowNow, and "let's get some of the action" or "let's not get left irrelevant" checkbox'ing from the likes of Microsoft. But back to the event of the day, the new enterprise blogging offering from Automattic and KnowNow is, for now, being branded as the KnowNow WordPress Enterprise Edition (KWEE). KWEE sounds like some kind of fun, but the expanded version doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Beyond some awkward syllabic moments, the real questions is: Will the new partners be able to crack the enterprise market that vendors like Six Apart, Telligent, and (shortly) Microsoft are trying to dominate? That won't be easy. Looking at the near field player, Six Apart's name recognition is a lot stronger in the enterprise and boosted further in that Intel's SuiteTwo will include the company's Movable Type blogging/publishing platform. This gives Six Apart a big lead. Add to that the fact that there is a lot more enterprise functionality already built into Movable Type Enterprise (LDAP integration, provisioning, advanced authentication/authorization management, direct FeedBurner integration, mobile blogging client, etc.) and it's a late start plus an uphill battle for the WordPress camp. Microsoft is arriving on the enterprise blogging scene too. SharePoint (MOSS) 2007 has been released, and among a host of other features (see MOSS review here) MOSS 2007 does blogging, wikis, forums, and RSS syndication. On top of this, we have Telligent's Community Server further crowding the .NET enterprise blogging market. Still, WordPress seems to be the up-and-comer of blogging point solutions, and it has lots of open source add-on support. A quick, non-scientific (and probably unfair) comparison of active projects on SourceForge reveals a 78 to 26 advantage for WordPress over Movable Type. Furthermore, the theme generation community is also more robust for WordPress, at least in quantity if not also in quality. Its vibrant community is a big deal and the enterprise features will both be part of this and benefit from it. One final point on the rivalry, if a bit of a tired one, is that the Blogosphere is a little bitter about Six Apart's commercialization of Movable Type and the "corporate whoredom" (uh, not our words) that goes along with it. Because the source code of WordPress is truly open, it's of course easier for the "we like free" bloggy people to endorse, love, and build on. Whether or not that impacts these games is debatable. Nevertheless, it can make for some entertaining lunchtime reading and may play a factor in the feature development speed. In the end its still very early. The enterprise blogging games are warming up and that's fun. We'll all get to benefit from the product maturity and evolutions that follow. Some of us will get dragged from the groovy blogosphere to the square-as-hell corporate conference tables. And companies like Six Apart and Automattic will perform a balancing act between their vibrant fan bases and the wealthy enterprise. Addressing the needs and values of both worlds will be a tenuous act, played-out in the months ahead. Automattic's lock to the OSS community gives them some advantage in the blogosphere. Six Apart has a jump on the enterprise. Nothing's assured though and we seriously doubt anyone is crying in the corner. Its just competitive companies trying to make some dough, kind of like what happened yesterday.