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7/19/2012
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Huddle Retools For Social, Quick Collaboration

File sharing platform fleshes out social collaboration, plus web-based document previews and editing.

Questions About Microsoft's Acquisition of Yammer
Questions About Microsoft's Acquisition of Yammer
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Setting to rest the question of whether its file-sharing collaboration platform is social software, Huddle this week updated its cloud service with a Yammer-style news feed that streams notifications about uploads and updates, as well as commentary related to that content.

The update also improves features for previewing and manipulating files within the Web-based tool, without the need to download those files. With improved social functionality, Huddle argues it has achieved what it took Microsoft years of investment and the $1.2 billion acquisition of Yammer to match.

Huddle traditionally was less like Yammer than it was like Box, which emphasizes its rivalry with SharePoint as an enterprise platform. Similarly, Huddle CEO Alstair Mitchell likes to say that if SharePoint were being designed over again today, it would be designed more like his company's product. In addition to courting big corporate customers, Huddle boasts of success among security-conscious government agencies, particularly in the U.K.

[ There is no escape: Can You Take A Vacation From Tech?. ]

Huddle also has scored points with its iPad app, as well as its file sync utility for PCs, and for its content recommendation engine. The recommendation feature looks at a user's connections to people, documents, and projects to determine what additional files that user might need access to. It can be configured to sync those files to the user's machine--without the user having to specifically request them--so they will be easily available when they are needed, even if the user happens to be off-line, according to Huddle.

Although Huddle previously had comment streams associated with individual files, it now has added a central activity feed with a share button and the ability to include @mention references to other users in the style of Twitter or Yammer.

"The entire market is moving in this direction; it's not just what Microsoft, Yammer, and Salesforce are doing, or what Box is doing," said Andy McLoughlin, Huddle co-founder and executive VP for strategy. "We're seeing that business systems, first of all, need to become more social. But also, social systems are noisy unless attached to the work that's going on. Everyone is kind of converging on the same space, which is content plus social, plus collaboration in the enterprise."

In addition to social feeds, platform improvements in the release include:

-- Immediate access to files, which can be displayed instantly on the Web without the need to download a file before finding out if it's the one you want. Huddle is providing accurate, high-fidelity rendition of Word, PowerPoint, and PDF documents.

-- Expanded file controls, which make it possible to edit metadata, copy text to the clipboard, zoom, and print, again without the need to download the file.

-- Workflow for tasks and approvals.

-- Full version history, making it easy to recover earlier versions without requiring the help of IT.

-- Granular audit trails, with all file views, file changes, comments, discussions and approvals tracked, whether they are made online, on the desktop, via mobile apps, or via email.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

Every company needs a social networking policy, but don't stifle creativity and productivity with too much formality. Also in the debut, all-digital Social Media For Grownups issue of The BrainYard: The proper tools help in setting social networking policy for your company and ensure that you'll be able to follow through. (Free with registration.)

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