When Microsoft Office 2010 comes out next year, it will finally include some Web-based collaborative editing capabilities to compete with Google Apps. However, a new third-party Office plug-in, OffiSync, available in a limited test form this week, attempts to bring the best of Office together with the best of Google Apps today.
OffiSync, founded by former Microsoft Office marketing manager Oudi Antebi, now VP of marketing and strategy at business intelligence company Panorama Software, combines Office and Google Docs with a new toolbar in Office that lets customers open and save Google Apps documents and collaborate on them or define collaborators from within Microsoft Word.
There are any number of reasons people might be slow to jump on the Google Apps bandwagon, including one big one in particular: It's just not Microsoft Office.
Most consumers and companies already have Office installed, and many companies have enterprise licenses that entitle them to free upgrades and additional perks. But Google Apps has fewer features than Office, and it could take a bit of training to turn newbie employees into power users.
Of course, the fact that it isn't Microsoft Office is also a reason Google Apps has gotten traction. Google Apps brings a few important features that Microsoft Office doesn't yet offer, including free Web-based editing and file storage, real-time and asynchronous collaboration, and more granular file search than is available in Windows.
Antebi says he now hears a familiar refrain when he talks to people about OffiSync: "I have never used Google Docs because I didn't want it to replace Office, but now I might use it because it just makes Office better."
The 8-MB download plug-in also allows users to manage their Google Docs file libraries as if they were local file stores. Users can search from within the open and save document dialogues built into OffiSync and send e-mail notifications to collaborators. Antebi plans to offer two versions, one for individuals and a paid version for enterprises that includes management and deployment features.