Our startup-minded readers may remember Mike Trotzke, our good friend who, with a little help from his good friends Marc Guyer and Brad Wisler, founded a startup incubator called SproutBox earlier this year.

One of the latest sprouts to emerge from the box is Squad, Trotzke's gift to developers everywhere - and we mean everywhere! This web-based environment allows distributed teams to collaborate in real time, opening, editing and sharing code from anywhere with an Internet connection.

It's also beautifully portable — meaning you can work on projects from any location, whether it's your home computer, your laptop, your mom's vaccum tube-era model — any device with a browser can be your portal.

And because it's collaborative, it's great for conducting code reviews or paired programming. And it's a perfect platform for noobs and the poor suckers who have to train them. It's even got a built in chat module so you can discuss changes as they're made.

Parts of this app dimly reminded us of Lowdown, a plain-text collaboration tool for developers to communicate to designers and managers, and even more so of How's My Code, a resource for distributed teams to conduct code reviews and keep all the coders for a project on the same page. But those apps were relatively lightweight contraptions slapped together for the Rails Rumble a couple months ago. Trotzke offers a product of a different caliber altogether.

He wrote to us, "It has a unique approach to realtime interaction that even non-developer types would find interest in.

"Users follow each others actions (tab switching, scrolling, etc.) and then see each character they type. You kind of need to try it out to get the feel, but it's pretty sexy for instructional or code review use cases."

Sounds sexy indeed! Like a developers-only, less-crowded, actually useful version of Google Wave.

Check out the screenshots:

Pricing is competitive and ranges from free to $40 per month for teams of up to 5 users, with additional user support available for $7 per user per month. And the first month is free for everyone on a trial basis.

Squad supports a variety of languages, including HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, Python, SPARQL, Lua and XML. Squad works great as an HTML editor, a PHP editor or a plain text editor.

The startup also plans to add a Ruby syntax mode, enhanced search and replace functions; an offline sharing mode; a show/hide feature on the collaboration panel; and project handling functions.

It looks like a great, exciting product, and we look forward to reading users' reviews and seeing what else Trotzke and the Squad team come up with.