MindTouch Nov. 19 joined Google, Zoho, Microsoft and a raft of others in the cloud, embracing the Internet as a way to deliver collaboration applications.
However, the new MindTouch Cloud is a different animal than its rivals for a couple reasons. First, its software is open source, a bright light for customers tired of proprietary applications.
Second, MindTouch Cloud lets non-technical sales representatives or business managers pull business data from CRM and ERP applications, such as Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, and Oracle, and weave them into documents in team workspaces. Workers can then automate reports, build applications and run dashboards based on that data.
MindTouch Cloud includes instant messaging, video collaboration and status updates, which enterprise workers use to collaborate on documents, as well as charts, graphs, reports and tables that represent the data from the business applications.
Essentially, knowledge workers can do everything they might do with the MindTouch 2009 Standard on-premise solution, but let MindTouch host it for them. This will save companies infrastructure and power costs.
MindTouch CEO Aaron Fulkerson said his company is targeting Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration platform and Google Apps, which offer classic document and spreadsheet applications without blending in the business data.
MindTouch might be more closely compared to Zoho, which offers both collaboration applications delivered via the SAAS (software as a service) model and enterprise applications, such as CRM. Zoho has been steadily integrated those separate suites, but it has so many applications and it takes time to integrate them all.
However, Salesforce.com is beginning to look like the cloud computing platform of choice for enterprise applications, collaboration, and now, social networking.
The company Nov. 19 unveiled Salesforce.com Chatter, a social networking platform integrates with Facebook and Twitter to make it an enterprise application development platform with native collaboration and social networking capabilities.
It will be interesting to see if MindTouch takes any more steps on the social networking front. It will also be interesting to see how many of MindTouch's 16 million customers from Mozilla, Microsoft (yes, the same company it aims to compete with) and the U.S. Army move over to MindTouch Cloud from the old-school on-premise platform.
Still, MindTouch has a distinct advantage. Zoho, Salesforce.com and the others are not offering their solutions via the open source model, which will be attractive to businesses courting open source religion, or who just want a lower price point.
MindTouch Cloud is free for the first 30 days as part of a trial. Then it will cost companies $7 per user, per month for a minimum of 50 users; $8 per user, per month for at least 25 users, or $10 per user, per month for a minimum of 10 users.