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5/5/2010
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Jake Widman
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Central Desktop To Offer Real-Time Collaboration

Midmarket-oriented online collaboration vendor Central Desktop will roll out Central Desktop for Office next month, which will enable multiple co-workers to edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents at the same time.

Midmarket-oriented online collaboration vendor Central Desktop will roll out Central Desktop for Office next month, which will enable multiple co-workers to edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents at the same time.Central Desktop specializes in providing group workspaces in an SaaS model, with the conferencing, discussion spaces, and so on hosted on the Central Desktop servers. As such, the company positions itself as an affordable and easy-to-use alternative to Microsoft SharePoint for small and midsize businesses (although it does offer an Enterprise Edition).

The solution already supports collaboration on documents, with revision tracking and version history. But to accomplish that, the service requires users to check documents out of Central Desktop and check them back in when they're finished. While one person is working on a document and has it checked out, no one else can access it.

Microsoft has announced that Office 2010 will support simultaneous collaboration, but it will either a Windows SharePoint server or Microsoft's online storage service SkyDrive. Now Central Desktop has stolen a march on Microsoft by announcing that starting sometime in June, its customers will be able to download an Office add-on that provides that same simultaneous http://app014.cmpnet.com/cgi-bin/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&blog_id=84collaboration capability without requiring an upgraded server.

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Central Desktop for Office gives Word, Excel, and PowerPoint a new toolbar that lets users open, edit, and save files right from and to the cloud (i.e., Central Desktop's servers). While a user has a document open, they can see what changes have been made, any comments that have been added, and who else is working on the document. They can then choose to merge or reject the changes, and any changes they make will be immediately available to co-workers. Central Desktop takes care of syncing revisions and tracking versions.

Central Desktop for Office will not support Office for Mac, at least at first, even though Mac Office 2011 will have the same simultaneous collaboration features that Windows Office 2010 will. The product will not be out until next month, but those interested can sign up to be beta testers here. Pricing for a Central Desktop account ranges from free for a small team (2 workspaces 25 MB of total storage) to $99/month for 25 spaces and 5 GB of storage. Central Desktop for Office will cost $30/user/year over and above the Central Desktop account.

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