Hoping to level the playing field with Microsoft SharePoint and perhaps make a little open source cheddar, Dutch software outfit O3 is releasing its O3Spaces back office suite for OpenOffice and StarOffice.While it is far from offering all of the features of SharePoint (MOSS) 2007, it is definitely something that that open source and hybrid Microsoft/open source shops should consider for document management.Just as SpikeSource and CorraTech are torquing the open source screws in the CRM, Web CMS, and BI space, 03 is piecing together open source modules to create a SharePoint-like experience for people not using Microsoft Office exclusively. Features include a tabbed web interface for browsing document shares, Microsoft Office interoperability and an integrated communication workspace inside the browser.By far the biggest advantage, however, is Space's ability to seamlessly operate within Open/Star Office much the same way SharePoint operates within Microsoft Office. Files can be browsed and versioned directly from the application instead of from a web browser interface.This is what puts spaces above the other open source document management applications.Much like SharePoint and the free Windows SharePoint Services (WSS), O3Spaces contains the concept of workspaces. Exactly as you'd expect, these are working areas document repositories created for a particular task or project. In addition to document storage, a workspace contains a set of standard collaboration tools. These include team calendaring and a discussion forum for communications and dispute resolutions, and Microsoft bashing (we're kidding!).O3Spaces StartSpace (desktop)The package comes in three different configurations: On Demand, Professional, and Open.The On Demand configuration is a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, can be accessed from anywhere, and includes feature upgrades through the life of the contract. It only requires a small client install, the Workplace Assistant, to access the online document sharing.The Professional edition, at just under EU 60 per user per month year [Correction by Editor 30-Nov-2006], is priced reasonably for the small office and is available on a per CPU basis for large installs. It is deployed in the company network and can also be used with secure Internet access.The Open Edition is an open source, community edition of the O3Spaces software. The O3Spaces Open Edition is not yet on the ground, but will be made available in 2007.Customers in Non-Profit, education and small business should find this low cost/open source solution compelling. If the open source model becomes popular with developers and Open Office and OpenDocument applications continue to gain popularity, perhaps 03Spaces will grow into more of the marketshare that SharePoint currently enjoys. The company has certainly made it easy for the curious to do a quick road test. Those ready to give Spaces a whirl can download a handy pre-configured VMware appliance here. If you are weighing the options against SharePoint, O3 have provided a convenient, if biased, SharePoint Comparison white paper (PDF).For some background info, O3Spaces is built by an innovative team of software engineers based in the Netherlands.Their vision is to grow and promote Open Office, Star Office, and ODF-centric applications and tools, helping these technologies to achieve parity as enterprise office and collaboration solutions. Now in version 2.0, O3Spaces started as a prototype in the fall of 2005 and has been gaining momentum ever since. The product is written in Java, and based on the Tomcat Server with a PostgreSQL backend.