DocVerse, an early-stage startup that aims to simply document sharing and collaboration.Two former Microsoft employees, Shan Sinha, a former Microsoft SharePoint and SQL Server strategist, and Alex DeNeui, also a SQL strategist, are attempting to do what (so far) Microsoft has not: compete head-on with Google Docs by transforming Microsoft Office into online collaboration suite. To do so, they've launched a company called
DocVerse currently consists of a 1 MB Office 2007 plug-in that gives Microsoft's desktop software new collaboration and synchronization abilities. Once installed, every time you hit the "save" button in Office, a web version stored online is automatically updated, too. The web version also comes with a link you can share.
If that part sounds a lot like what's already available in Microsoft's Live Workspace, that's because it is. Like DocVerse, Live Workspace users can also install a plugin into Office that keeps files between computer and web in sync.
However, the key difference between DocVerse and any of Microsoft's current offerings is the service's online collaboration abilities. With DocVerse, a group editing feature lets multiple users edit one copy of the same document without having to check it out, then check it back in.
To begin using the software, you can share a document with others using either the URL provided or by entering in the email addresses of those you want to share with. As changes are made, they're synced back to the online version of the document. The DocVerse software then uses a confliction resolution system to deal with any potential conflicts between the updates. As the edits continue, DocVerse automatically creates new versions of the document while saving the older versions in case you need to revert back.
DocVerse users will also see their changes categorized in an in-file "News Feed" which appears in the sidebar of any open document. For users without Office, feedback can be given about the shared files straight from their web browser.
At launch time, the plug-in works with Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 only, but support for Word and Excel 2007 will roll out later this spring as will support for Office 2003. DocVerse is Windows-only.
Microsoft announced the upcoming Microsoft Office Web applications at their Professional Developers Conference in October. With these web applications, due in the next version of Office (Office 14), users will be able to create, edit, and collaborate on Office documents through the browser (IE, Firefox, or Safari). Despite some initial rumors, Office Web Applications will not require Silverlight to run and they'll even work on the iPhone via the Safari browser.
That obviously made us wonder - how will DocVerse compete with Microsoft's own offering? Says DocVerse CEO Shan Shina, the key will be backward compatibility. Where the official Microsoft Office Web Applications will focus only on the latest and greatest version of Office (he presumes - no one really knows), DocVerse will aim to be compatible with Office 2003, 2007, and the upcoming Office 14. Given that 35-40 percent of the market still runs Office 2003 and 15-20 percent runs 2007, he imagines it will be a while before everyone upgrades to Office 14 - web apps or not.
While capitalizing on the "good enough" trend, the company will also focus on how they can best complement the newer Office 14 when it becomes available. In other words, no matter what Microsoft throws out there, DocVerse plans to provide the missing features.
Try it! (Invites)
To learn more about how DocVerse works, Web Worker Daily has a great hands-on review. Our readers can try DocVerse for themselves by clicking here: http://www.docverse.com?ic=RWW. There are only 200 invites available, so that link is first come, first serve.
Disclosure: Sarah Perez also writes for Microsoft's Channel 10.