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Former Softies aim to make Office work like Google Docs

Two former Microsoft employees have started a company aimed at making Microsoft Office more like Google Docs -- at least on the online-collaboration front.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Two former Microsoft employees have started a company aimed at making Microsoft Office more like Google Docs -- at least on the online-collaboration front. DocVerse -- a stealth startup formed by Shan Sinha, a former Microsoft SharePoint and SQL Server strategist, and Alex DeNeui, also formerly involved with SQL strategy at Microsoft -- has begun offering beta invitations to a few hundred interested testers. (DocuVerse is allowing me to distribute these invitations to the first 100 interested in signing up.  Go to http://www.docverse.com?ic=MJF to request a beta invite.) DocVerse is a 1MB plug-in for Office 2007 that is designed to supplement the software product with new online editing/viewing/sharing capabilities. I have to admit, when Sinha told me about what he was doing, I was skeptical. After all, Microsoft already is providing the same kind of online-collaboration capabilities to users via its free Office Live Workspace service -- an offering that Microsoft officials haven't mentioned publicly in ages. Plus, the Redmondians have said it they are readying Webified versions of certain Office applications as part of Office 14. So why would anyone need a third-party solution -- even a (currently) free one like DocVerse? "We spend a lot of time thinking about those questions," Sinha told me via e-mail. "Office doesn't do a good job of enabling collaboration and our aim is to complement it by tring to fix that fact. Office Live Workspace (OLW) doesn't provide a feature set that comes close to what we offer, making it a poor user experience (and in our estimation the cause for its lack of uptake)." Sinha said OLW primarily gives users the ability to share a file over the Web and allow someone else to download it. DocVerse allows users to edit a file at the same time without requiring check-in/check-out (and enables users to share and edit documents even if all parties don't have the DocVerse plug-in installed).

Regarding what is coming with Office Web Applications as part of Office 14 (the first, relatively small group of alpha testers recently got access to those applications ), Sinha said he is expecting Microsoft's focus on the "latest and greatest" version of its Office suite to leave the bulk of Office 2003 and 2007 users out in the cold. "The process of O14 uptake will not occur overnight. Meaningful adoption of O14 will take at least 3 - 5 years. During that time O2007 will continue to grow and Office 2003 will very slowly decline, especially as the economy forces people to slow down their upgrade cycles even more so than what they feel today," Sinha said. "This gives us time to figure out how to best complement O14 when it is released and in the meantime offer todays customers a way of getting the most out of their existing investments art a fraction of the cost of upgrading (which is much more than just the cost of software, of course)." (Office 14 and the Office Web Apps are expected to ship in late 2009 or early 2010. Microsoft still is not providing an updated ship target for the product.) I'm interested in hearing back from testers who decide to give the DocVerse plug-in a try what you think....
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