Two companies are angling for a chunk of the real-time collaboration market Google has cultivated interest in with Google Wave, the platform that blends instant messaging, file sharing, live editing and social networking.
The real-time collaboration update to the PBworks platform will enable teams whose workers are spread far and wide to ping colleagues through live instant messaging notifications, rather than requiring them to send an asynchronous e-mail notification.
Users then communicate via instant messaging to edit documents together live in a wiki Web page. This is a break from the classic, scheduled Web conferencing approach enabled by Cisco WebEx and Citrix GoToMeeting applications.
Eventually, users will also be able to click a button in the platform to initiate outbound calls to their colleagues using their existing phone service, marking another break from the traditional practice of setting up a conference call in advance. Users can add new participants at any time, recording each conference call for later review. This feature will also launch from Apple’s iPhone.
Like Google Wave, which Google is rolling out slowly to users, PBworks’ Real-Time Collaboration Update provides a break from the traditional asynchronous collaboration model, where users edit documents individually in a wiki, hit save, and allow others to come in and work on them.
Unlike Google Wave, where gangs of bouncing cursors rove a Wave session as a result of editing from several users, PBworks lets one worker edit a document at a time, PBworks Vice President Chris Yeh told eWEEK.
For example, whenever a user is editing a workspace page, other users viewing that page see the edits appear in real time, but they can’t barge into that page to disrupt the worker’s editing process.
In that respect, it’s similar to a WebEx editing session, Yeh said, adding that users told PBworks they preferred the single editor approach to preserve the wiki metaphor of page history and revisions.
How PBworks Is Different from Google Wave
Google Wave leverages a time slider for users to scroll back to various points in the editing process. While this is fine for multi-editing cases, it has its drawbacks; users can’t search and see who did what easily without going through the entire session.
“While it’s good that Google Wave is out there drawing attention to this, we’re really trying to tackle some of the issues that people are trying to solve not with Wave, but with the old-fashioned telephone, instant messaging and Web conferencing services,” Yeh said.
The company created the solution for law firms and consultancies, which told PBworks they didn’t want to set up separate Web and conference calls to work together in real time, Yeh said.
The instant messaging collaboration, live notifications and live editing will be available to users of the company’s Project and Legal Edition on Nov. 17 for no additional charge. For news users, the Project Edition is $20 per user per month, while the Legal Edition is $50 per attorney per month.
Voice collaboration will be available in early 2010, but that will cost a premium after a certain amount of usage. PBworks hasn’t created a billing system for that yet, which is why users will have to wait until next year to use this capability.
PBworks currently hosts over 1 million workspaces for 50,000 businesses, ranging from businesses to consultancy firms and legal houses. The company counts the Mayo Clinic and Federal Express among its customers. PBworks also offers a free version for consumers and a version for school classrooms.
Meanwhile, Watchitoo, which has provided real-time video, voice and text chat, embarked on its own real-time collaboration plans for businesses today, allowing people to share documents and broadcast a live Web stream.
The document-sharing feature allows individuals to view PDF, Word and PowerPoint documents and work on those files with others. Watchitoo will also let users drag their video chat icon into the main window to begin streaming live.
Watchitoo, which hosts its platform or provides it as an embeddable service on any site or through a white-label application, envisions its users as entertainers trying to showcase talent, as well as academics and executives who need to communicate with colleagues from afar.