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12/14/2010
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KnowledgeTree Upgrades Cloud-Based Document Management Platform

Microsoft Office integration, real-time collaboration, unlimited users, and other features target SMBs in vertical markets with needs unfulfilled by Google Apps.

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While Microsoft and Google slug it out in their heavyweight bout for worldwide supremacy, KnowledgeTree appears content to work its own corner of the cloud, tailoring its online document management solution to particular business needs rather than a catchall audience.

On Tuesday, the software provider released several upgrades to its platform that CEO Daniel Chalef said move KnowledgeTree beyond the other online document management tools on the market. The enhancements include desktop co-authoring within Microsoft Office applications, as well as real-time sharing and collaboration with unlimited internal and external users. KnowledgeTree also announced new pricing plans.

Though KnowledgeTree's platform has roots in traditional content management systems rather than productivity software, the addition of Office integration in the cloud seems to put it in direct competition with Google Apps and, to a slightly lesser extent, Microsoft's own Office 365, which is currently in beta and will wrap cloud-based versions of its productivity applications with its existing Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). Indeed, KnowledgeTree counts Google Apps among its key competitors, as well as Dropbox, Box.net, and SpringCM.

Chalef said that KnowledgeTree isn't necessarily trying to be that different from other solutions in the cloud. Rather, it's trying to meet business needs it believes aren't currently addressed by the other players in the space. He gave as examples smaller law firms, accounting firms, and "line of business" users -- think finance, control, human resources -- in larger organizations. The common thread? Creating and managing time-sensitive documents such as budgets and contracts that require access control, aging alerts, business process workflows, real-time collaboration, and searchable metadata.

"We're users of Google Apps ourselves," Chalef said. "We really like it a lot." But that doesn't mean they've abandoned Office -- like other organizations that have adopted Google's Web-based software, KnowledgeTree continues to use Office as well.

"I really enjoy Google Docs spreadsheets for small lists and transient content, ephemeral content," Chalef said. But when it comes to budgets, financial models, and other complex documents, he opens Excel. "There's absolutely no way I can do those using Google's online products." He added that Zoho's suite -- which integrates with KnowledgeTree -- is "closer to the ideal" but not quite all the way there.

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