business person with cell phone in hand
Every vendor, including Google and Microsoft, is looking at ways to improve mobile productivity. PHOTO: Jan Vasek

We don’t really do predictions here, but here’s one anyway.

This year, the productivity apps and suite space is going to be all about mobility and mobile access. If it’s not, you can call me out on it at the end of the year, but that’s not going to happen. Everyone is looking at mobility. And collaboration, too, of course.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google knows this. It spent a lot of last year adding mobile functionality and access to its G Suite and its apps. It continued to do so over the end of the year holiday break.

Historically, Google Docs’ Android Apps were fine for quick edits and tweaking, but never matched the functionality offered by the web or desktop versions of Docs, Sheets and Slides.

However, that changed with a recent upgrade. Google is bringing Page setup to the Google Docs part of G Suite. Page Setup is a group of options dictating the way a document is formatted to print. These include margins, page orientation, size and quality of print.

Users will also be able to export Docs files to EPUB (commonly used with e-readers) and OpenDocument Text files (often used with LibreOffice and OpenOffice). Importing these file types into Docs files is also supported.

One other upgrade that is worth taking note of is that you can now also use the IMAGE function to display images inside cells, which will also make mobile work on documents a lot easier.

The upgrades will be available over the next couple of weeks and will go a long way to getting mobile work done quickly. It is also likely there will also other announcements in the same vein soon.

Mobile Access to Office 365 Docs

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft is also betting on mobile by adding new features to Office 365 at an astounding rate over the past three years. It has also been working to ensure that users can navigate and use the upgrades.

Last April, it started redesigning the Office 365 home page to enable users to not only access the new features but also to enable them to collaborate and communicate from any device.

Over the rest of this month, it will be rolling-out more new features to make the collaborative experience easier and to improve or simplify the way users access and open documents.

Of particular note, it is making access to unfinished or recently finished documents easier as well as enabling users filter those documents by document type across Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

It has also made it easier to see what’s coming up at a glance, get an in-depth view of the day’s meetings and quickly respond to or join Skype for Business calls with one click.

This is all about mobility and offering users access to Microsoft apps no matter what device they are using, including SharePoint, which now has its own mobile app.

It is also making the wider, function-heavy Office 365 easier to use away from the desk and attract customers that might have gone with more agile, lighter productivity suites.

Xerox’s Brighter Future? Maybe

It's finally happened: After all the commentary, analysis and divided opinion, Xerox has split into two companies.  On Jan. 3, executives from Xerox piled into the New York Stock Exchange to ring the bell that signals the start of trading. It all seemed very positive.

Indeed, the shares at Norfolk, Conn.-based Xerox rocketed by 20 percent in early trading the first day, and where Xerox goes, its business services offspring,
Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Conduent, is hoping to follow.

There are two problems though. The first is that despite a growing interest in business process software across big and small enterprises alike, the economy is sluggish. If the market is challenging for an established company like Xerox, it is likely to be more so for the new company

The second factor is the unknown effect of a new US president on business generally. While President-elect Donald Trump has said he will negotiate fair deals with trading partners to ensure US business are playing on an equal playing field with businesses worldwide — an issue of importance for Xerox and Conduent since both depend on a global marketplace — it’s far from clear how these negotiations will go.

It is also true that the business that has been spun off into Conduent has never really worked for Xerox. Xerox bought it in 2010 when it paid $6.4 billion for Affiliated Computer Services in the hope that it would provide another income stream other than traditional Xerox printing hardware.

In theory, the buy made sense. More and more enterprises were turning to print and document management services to save money. The printing and copying business was also falling off as fewer people printed or copied documents. Services seemed like a good way to go.

However, even by 2011, the place of the big, lumbering tech giants was already under question with HP also finally splitting into two entities in 2015.

The market has responded well to Xerox so far, but has been less enthusiastic about Conduent. Its share price fell by 8 percent in initial trading and has regained little since then.

Xerox over the coming months will focus on growing its digital print technology and services as well as offering customer’s new ways communicate, connect and work more productively.

Conduent, for its part, has 96,000 employees globally and, based on pre-split earnings, revenues of $7 billion. It also automatically enters the Fortune 500 list, with a focus on business process services specializing in transaction-intensive processing, analytics and automation.

If the lead up to the Xerox split was followed closely by both technology and financial analysts alike, the aftermath will also be watched to see what the eventual outcome will be.

Alfresco, Formtex Build On Partnership

Finally, this week, Concord, Calif.-based Formtek and Maiden Head, UK-based Alfresco have deepened their partnership with the release of 2.3 of the Version Browser for Alfresco 5.1. 

The Formtek Version Browser is an extension to Alfresco One enterprise content management (ECM) system that enables easy visual comparisons of versioned documents.

The biggest addition to this release of the Version Browser is the ability to do side-by-side version comparison.

Version 2 of a document in the left view panel and Version 1 of the same document on the right.
Version 2 of a document in the left view panel and Version 1 of the same document on the right.

Using Version Bowers users will be able to view two different versions of a document, drawing or image side-by-side in most formats including Office documents, PDF and even AutoCAD file formats.

The browser offers all other attributes needed for effective document management including versioning, undo and delete functions.

It’s a small upgrade but a very useful one and makes document management across Alfresco One all that much easier.