Live Documents to Challenge Microsoft Office, Google Apps

The software beats Microsoft in bringing Office tools to the Web and Google in offline functionality.

Count Live Documents among the new challengers to Microsoft Office and Google Apps.

Live Documents merges the mature functionality of Microsoft Office word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software with the collaborative tools of Google Apps into a platform that allows users to access their documents on either the desktop or the browser, according to officials with Bangalore, India-based InstaColl.

Launched Nov. 21, the suite lets users view and edit documents within any common browser (IE, Firefox, Opera) on any operating system (Windows, Linux) from any computing device (PC or handheld).

InstaColl CEO Sumanth Raghavendra told eWEEK his team has gone under the hood of Microsofts document formats to come up with an XML version of the document that is browser-friendly.

InstaColl programmers then developed a set of browser-based applications using Flash and Flex that consume this XML and provide it to users in a manner that is reminiscent of the familiar desktop applications, but works within a browser.


Click here to read more about Microsoft Office going online.

But heres the kicker and the potential hot-spot for contention with the Microsoft folks: Live Documents is also available as an optional desktop client application that converts Microsoft Office applications from static standalone software to smart clients that are connected to the Internet.

This plug-in wraps around Microsoft Office and adds an aspect layer around Word, Excel and PowerPoint, offering features only found in Office 2007, such as macros, table styles and databar conditional formatting in Excel 2007 and live preview of changes in PowerPoint 2007.

Furthermore, this software allows multiple people to edit a document at the same time and provides access control and security without requiring users to access their work through special user interfaces.

For example, the toolbar provides a button for adding threaded discussions around a document and for viewing the revisions made to the document throughout its life cycle. It also notifies the user if other people are working on the same document at the same time and provides an update button, which enables users to refresh the document with changes that other people have made.

The client also enables users to access documents offline, so that changes made on the desktop or online side are automatically synchronized to the other side. This feature is something few current online office applications can do.

Essentially, the plug-in provides Microsoft Office with all the collaborative capabilities found in browser-based applications such as Google Docs and wikis.

"Our browser component replicates the productivity capabilities of the desktop software and our client plug-in embeds collaborative capabilities into desktop software," Raghavendra said.

Live Documents joins a slew of up-and-coming online collaboration vendors, but from a marketing perspective, InstaColl appears to be positioning the software as just the right alternative to Microsoft Office and Google Apps.


For more on Google Apps, click here.

Despite Microsofts software-plus-service promise, the company has taken its lumps for not yet getting Office applications from the static, offline realm to the Web. While Office Live Workspace is due later this year, Google Apps has already successfully entered this online market. However, Google does not let users work on their documents offline.

Live Documents attempts to hit both sweet spots, dubbing it "services-plus-software" as a play on Microsofts and Googles strategies.

InstaColl has some cachet. The company was co-founded by Sabeer Bhatia, a co-creator of the wildly successful Hotmail Web mail application and company that Microsoft bought in 1997 for a reported $400 million.

InstaColl, an associate partner of chipmaker Intel, said several progressive corporations have pre-booked the Live Documents enterprise version for internal deployment. The first commercial enterprise version of Live Documents will be deployed at communications software company Aricent, which has more than 6,700 employees.

Users who wish to test Live Documents may do so now here.


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