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What is Enterprise 2.0?

Boston—"Enterprise 2.0" has a simple definition: The application of Web 2.0 technologies to the enterprise. But there are almost as many different meanings for "Web 2.0" as there are mashups, making "Enterprise 2.0" an equally nebulous concept. At this week's Enterprise 2.0 show, the emphasis was on RIAs (rich Internet applications) that enable collaboration. Here are six of the most notable product categories:

Most intranets are fairly Spartan affairs, at least compared with the sum total of an organization's knowledge. There's an untapped wealth of data contained within spreadsheets and text files, and it's that information that service-enablement vendors aim to expose. The concept is similar to service enablement for SOA, but hugely simplified so that no development skills are necessary. Instead of converting APIs to SOAP or other Web services, these apps convert files or Web pages to RSS feeds.
Kapow Technologies, Serendipity Technologies WorkLight and Denodo Technologies all showed off capabilities in this area, while IBM demonstrated its Info 2.0 product, which will combine with an enterprise mashup platform. Denodo also offers a mashup platform and a macro recorder that can retrieve information from Web sites, while Kapow displayed an automated screen-scraping function, which converts any Web site (on the Internet or an intranet) into an RSS feed.

Once RSS feeds have been enabled, enterprises need to find something to do with them. On the Internet, an RSS feed may be consumed by a Web browser, a standalone reader or a portal. The same options can work in an intranet, but the large number of feeds created from files or Web pages will quickly make this unwieldy. One option is to mash feeds up into new applications, using development platforms aimed at end users from JackBe, Denodo, IBM or BEA Systems. Another route is RSS management apps from Attensa, n Software RSSBus or NewsGator Technologies.

In Web 1.0, every startup wanted to be the next Microsoft. In Web 2.0, they all want to be the next Google. At Enterprise 2.0, it seems that many aim to compete with both Google and Microsoft, offering online office suites that they hope can combine the best of both worlds: The collaboration capabilities of a Web-based suite combined with the control over your own data of locally installed software.

The first online office suite (not counting Corel's proof-of-concept a decade ago) was from ThinkFree Corp., and the company used the show to demonstrate its new offline edition. Running under Java and so cross-platform, ThinkFree automatically synchronizes files with the online edition. It's also about to unveil support for Microsoft's new Office 2007 file formats, which have been published as a standard but are notoriously difficult to implement. Competitor AdventNet Zoho showcased its applications, which go beyond the usual word processor, spreadsheet and presentation to include CRM and wiki functionality.

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