Collaboration Software With A Familiar Look And Feel

Peer-to-peer architecture lets people use the interface they prefer.
Startup Advanced Reality Inc. this week will launch its first online collaboration product, designed to radically simplify the user experience.

Presence-AR, based on a peer-to-peer architecture, lets people collectively view and make changes to files using the same interface as their preferred desktop applications. The files can then be saved on the participants' desktops.

Rohm and Haas Co., a $6.9 billion-a-year specialty chemicals manufacturer in Philadelphia, is using Presence-AR among 12 members of a research and development team working from offices in Europe, North America, and Asia. Team members collaborate on Microsoft Excel worksheets that contain data on the chemistry, physical properties, raw-materials cost, packaging, and processing of chemicals under development. The team works together on the files during teleconferences.

Because the collaboration capabilities become an extension of the Excel interface, the team requires very little training in the new software. "With the Advanced Reality system, given that it sits behind an already-existing piece of software, resistance to propagating it across the company is negligible," says David Bonner, global director for technology at Rohm and Haas. "All the user sees is an upgraded capability that's very simple to learn."

For the pilot project, Rohm and Haas' IT group took less than a day to load Presence-AR onto team members' desktops. The test started only late last month, but Bonner is confident the software will be available companywide by the end of the first quarter.

Besides ease of use, Rohm and Haas says the software is relatively inexpensive. It's sold per application, with prices starting as low as $50,000 and as high as $250,000, Advanced Reality officials say.

Advanced Reality says it can integrate with any application without modifying its source code. The company plans to ship a software development kit within eight months for customers who want to build their own adapters.

For security, Presence-AR encrypts data moving between desk-tops and integrates with existing directory services for role-based access controls and file permissions for individual users.

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