One of the big stories this year in the document and document management software space is going to be office suites in the cloud. This week alone there have been at least three developments in this area, from Microsoft, IBM and Google. In the document collaboration space, Workshare document comparison software now integrates with Open Text’s eDocs.

Office Web Apps Reach Extended?

If you thought Office Web Apps has been available to everyone since it was launched last year, then you’d be right, because it was.

That didn’t stop Microsoft (news, site) from announcing during the week that it had extended the reach of Web Apps to another 150 countries so users in those countries could use Web Apps too.To quote from the Web Apps blog:

Starting today, people in over 150 more countries can use the Web Apps to view, edit, and share Office documents from anywhere with a browser and an internet connection. This includes viewing, editing, and sharing Office document attachments in Hotmail. The 150 new locations include India, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, and Thailand.

Next month is the global finale – when the Web Apps will reach the entire world, with a roll-out to all remaining markets in Central and South America, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.”

Only thing about this is that the functionality has been available to anyone all this time and all you had to do was find it. And no, that’s not difficult, either. Could it be that all we are really seeing is the beginning of the massive marketing campaign that will precede the launch of Office 365? After all Web Apps offers some of the collaboration features of the promised Office 365 – gets people “in the mood," as it were.

IBM Puts Symphony in the Cloud

IBM (news, site)also joined the charge to corner the market for Web office productivity suites this week with the launch of LotusLive Symphony for the cloud, an office suite that offers a social platform enabling simultaneous collaboration on documents in the cloud.

IBM believes LotusLive integration will make the difference. LotusLive is IBM’s portal, offering a number of collaboration and social networking services in the cloud.

With Symphony, IBM says it aims to break the link between Microsoft Office desktops and business by offering features that will enable organizations to socially enable their business processes.

Although Big Blue thinks Symphony will be enough, how this will pan out still isn’t clear, particularly because Microsoft will be launching Office 365. IBM says it will be launching Symphony in the second half of 2011, raising the prospect of a LotusLive and Office 365 rumble in the web office space later on in the year.

Google Docs Enhances Search

Google(news, site) has also been working in the cloud document space, this time with a little bit more tweaking to its Google Docs, which aims to improve search and to make it generally more competitive in this market.

The result is that the company is offering new search capabilities that will help users find their files, which they have stored in Google’s cloud, more easily than they have been able to do to date.

The objective here is to extend Google Docs' collaboration capabilities as it looks to gain traction against other collaboration suites that will include Office 365, and already includes the likes of Zoho and SharePoint.

Docs now has filters to let users search by type or visibility, as well as by a list of other criteria, plus providing priority listing, which offers files according to their relevancy related to the search term. A new preview function is also available on the right side of the document list.

The upgrades are currently being added so if they’re not there now, they will be very soon.

OpenText and Workshare Integrate

Meanwhile, document collaboration vendor Workshare (news, site) recently announced that Workshare Professional 5.2 SR3 can now be fully integrated with Open Text's (news, site) eDOCS DM 5.3.

Workshare Professional provides PDF and document comparison, document control for managing multi-person document reviews, metadata removal, secure PDF creation and sharing with information security.

Released by OpenText in December 2010 and integrated with OpenText ECM Suite 2010, eDOCS DM 5.3 was described by Open Text as a significant upgrade to the eDOCS portfolio and, more importantly, laid the groundwork for the next major release of eDOCS, which has been earmarked for 2012.

The integration with OpenText eDOCS DM 5.3 demonstrates Workshare's commitment to product quality and industry leading solutions, Workshare says.

However, it’s more likely that with the interest that Open Text’s 2012 release will create, interest in the Workshare integration will also be high.

Motive’s License Growth

Finally, as an indication of the interest economical and cloud document management platforms are likely to generate in the future, Motive Systems (news, site) says the number of M-Files licenses sold in 2010 increased 94 percent over 2009, with the M-Files user base growing by 60 percent over the same period.

M-Files is an easy-to-use document management product and comes in a cloud version, too, as M-Files Cloud. Motive Systems says its reseller channel was a key driver of the company's worldwide growth in 2010, with total revenue generated through the reseller network growing by more than 56 percent.

While no one doubts the efficacy of its reseller channel partners, the growth also confirms anecdotal evidence that businesses are looking for simpler and cheaper document management technology and that any company that can provide it is on a winner.