Startup Adds Collaboration Features To Microsoft Office

DocVerse hopes its plug-in software, which helps people write and edit documents at the same time via the Web, beats the Office team at its own game.
SharePoint may be increasingly popular as a collaboration and content management system, Sinha said, but at its core it remains a "great, rich file server." While DocVerse is aimed at everyone from consumers to enterprises, SharePoint aims mostly at enterprises. It also continues to require check-in and checkout procedures, while DocVerse eliminates those needs and adds the live collaboration features SharePoint doesn't offer. Future plans even have DocVerse plugging into SharePoint as a potential place to store files for enterprises that use SharePoint and don't want to use the SaaS version of DocVerse.

Sinha scoffed at comparisons with Office Live Workspaces. "It's basically only a locker in the cloud, a file share in the cloud," he said. "It's pretty much a bad replacement for sending e-mails."

When it releases Office 14, Microsoft plans to offer live collaborative editing for the first time as part of Office Web Applications, which will have a limited subset of the editing capabilities in the full Office suite. However, this will be offered only for Web users or those who have Office 14, Sinha predicted. "That'll be leaving Office 2003 and Office 2007 users out in the cold, and that gives us time to give today's users a set of features they really need and are asking for today," he said.

Currently, DocVerse only supports PowerPoint 2007 on Windows Vista and Windows XP, but support for the rest of Office 2007 and Office 2003 is coming soon. Sinha said DocVerse is considering a Mac version, but the lack of APIs for Office on the Mac makes that a tricky proposition. Instead of sending and receiving just the changes to an edited file, DocVerse transfers the entire file, but changing that is a top priority for the team, according to a post on DocVerse's help forums. Other features to be expected soon are presence awareness and the ability to open up a chat client from within a document.

Once it emerges from beta, DocVerse will have free, Pro, and Enterprise versions. The Pro version will come with a higher level of service than the free product, while the Enterprise version (available within the next six to 12 months) will be able to take advantage of on-premises file repositories like SharePoint and will likely have additional security and management features.

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