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Document Mgt Roll-up: A Win - and Possible Loss - for Office

This week there have been a number of interesting stories in the document management space, not least of which is the fact that the British government appears to be reconsidering its contracts with Microsoft. Meanwhile, Huddle has announced an integration with Office, while Box and KnowledgeTree have struck up a new partnership.

Will Microsoft Lose Again?

Right now, someone at Microsoft might be thinking about Oscar Wilde's contention that “to lose a parent is tragic, to lose both is careless.” Of course, the situation at hand has nothing to do with parents, but with the possibility that the British government may dump Office in favor of an open source alternative — on the heels of a similar move by the City of Boston.

Late last month, Boston abandoned Office for Google's productivity apps in a deal that must surely be giving other cities (and Google) ideas.

If losing a city is unlucky, losing a government would be a lot more serious, not just commercially, but in terms of the public relations impact of such a loss.

This is not the first time the British government has talked about switching providers. But this time it came from the mouth of a government minister who, speaking at a public event last week, said the government is looking to break the hold a few large companies have on providing it services. Cited widely in the British media, Francis Maude said:

I want to see a greater range of software used, so civil servants have access to the information they need and can get their work done without having to buy a particular brand of software. In the first instance, this will help departments to do something as simple as share documents with each other more easily. But it will also make it easier for the public to use and share government information.”

The British government has spent $325 million on the Office suite alone since 2010 and is trying to impress its voters with cost cutting in advance of the next election. So it is starting to look at its computing bill in earnest and open source formats appear to fit the bill in all respects. Maude added:

But be in no doubt: the adoption of compulsory standards in government threatens to break open Whitehall's lock-in to proprietary formats. In turn we will open the door for a host of other software providers."

Clearly this is not going to happen overnight — it takes a private company a long time to change systems, so it will take a government even longer.

But the stones are starting to roll, and if Microsoft looses this, then it will probably lose business from those companies that do business with the government and communicate with the government using Microsoft products.

There is also the possibility that the British government is looking to force Microsoft’s hand in new product negotiations and get it to cut prices. Even that is bad though as once governments and businesses start considering other possibilities anything could happen?

Huddle Integrates Office

Speaking of Office, this week enterprise collaboration vendor Huddle announced it is integrating with Microsoft Office’s productivity tools. The integration means that Huddle users will be able to access Office through Huddle and work in the Huddle cloud itself without ever having to leave it.

Users can now save files into their Huddle workspaces directly from Microsoft Office applications, and each Word, PowerPoint and Excel file will include a full Huddle comment stream alongside it.

Teams can also  provide feedback on content, make changes and reply in-context to co-workers, and can use Huddle’s cloud collaboration features without having to leave the applications and open a web browser.

But there is also a subtext running here. Huddle has longed claimed to be an easy, and less expensive tool to use than SharePoint and has on many occasions set itself up as a challenger to it.

We all know that, at least for the moment, that’s not realistic and it’s not going to happen in the near future. However, by adding access to productivity apps, Huddle is offering a is business users many of the tools that they need on a daily basis to manage their content.

While Ken Burns of Hyland convincingly argued last year that file share and syncing platforms would never replace enterprise content management systems (ECM). But he did point that if some of these platforms added more management functionality then they might just replace SharePoint, for example, where it is being used for content management and business tasks in the enterprise.


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