Vibe Cloud, Novell's competitor for the enterprise collaboration pool, was released from beta this week. The company claims the platform is different from popular solutions like Chatter and Yammer, but it's a difficult thing to be original these days. Here's our take: 

You may remember the beta introduction of Novell Vibe Cloud from late last year. The cloud-based enterprise collaboration platform combines activity streams with sharing and group editing capabilities, and aims to be a unique beast via three angles:

  • General purpose collaboration: While Chatter and Yammer both evolved from humble messaging/activity stream beginnings, Vibe Cloud's debut features a variety of the capabilities we've come to expect from a collaboration platform, including file sharing, versioning and document syncing. 
  • Real time and ad hoc: When Novell released Vibe Cloud in beta, several enterprise kids compared it to the jilted Google Wave because of its real time functionality. Like Wave, users can see when collaborators are viewing a document and what they are typing as they type it, but there are different levels of sharing. For example, live typing isn't integrated in the chat system, just in the document collaboration portion. This way, the "presence" of users isn't always in your face. 
  • Inter-company collaboration: Novell is big on keeping information within the company. Data remains secure, but trusted users have the option to share information outside the organization. 

The Ol' Freemium Trick

Novelle Vibe Cloud comes in two flavors: free and not free. "We're fairly unique in being enterprise freemium," said Andy Fox , Novell vice president of product management. "Our presumption is that we will attract enough enterprise users to make this work, while at the same time providing a really low-friction way of getting users to try it."

The difference between the two versions is mainly about space, as the free version only offers 250 megabytes of file storage. Upgrading to the Enterprise version (US $84 per user per year) buys an organization more administrative control, integration with enterprise directory services, and unlimited collaboration groups.

In other words, sure, it would probably work great for some small organizations as a basic tool, but Novell hopes that most participating parties will ultimately upgrade.

Try it for Free!

As an additional push, the company is offering free consulting and free licenses for 10 lucky applicants. This testing period will hopefully give Novell the proof they need to convince businesses that they actually do offer a significantly different platform than Yammer or As of now, there's nothing that really suggests that.

Both Yammer and Chatter have successfully extended their messaging tools into the enterprise space on a platform level, and not much suggests either company plans to slow down any time soon.

If you're curious about Novell or feeling lucky, apply to win a test run here.