Joining Zimbra, Zoho and a web based office suite from a little ole Google; ShareMethods is the latest player in the effort to move the office suite from the desktop to the web.With the announcement of ShareOffice, ShareMethods has brought their talent for document management together with a browser-based word processing application from iNetOffice and an online spreadsheet application in EditGrid to create the newest competitor to attempt to pry the office suite off the desktop and out of Microsoft's hands.If this sounds like a different version of the same song we've heard much of recently, then it will be important to note that what makes ShareOffice stand out from the pack is the fact that it is being touted as the first online office suite based on open standards.Along with the announcement of ShareOffice, iNetOffice and ShareMethods are also announcing the OpenSAM Organization. OpenSAM is short for Open Simple AJAX Mashup.That's a mouthful.The OpenSAM effort represents both a consortium of software-as-a-service (SaaS) application providers and a set of AJAX development recommendations that are based on open standards and geared specifically toward the integration of multiple online applications.OpenSAM hopes to make the web a "plug and play" platform for the creation of business specific office productivity suites.The initial members of OpenSAM are the previously mentioned iNetOffice, EditGrid and ShareMethods along with EchoSign, Persony, Joyent, Caspio, Liferro, Sheetster and Preezo (who have a preview release of their online presentation software included as part of ShareOffice).ShareOffice is the first commercially available application built using OpenSAM.Along with a commitment to development using open standards, ShareOffice includes the following features and benefits:
  • Security:SSL authentication and network encryption for online documents, spreadsheets, and presentations along with support for roles, permissions, and administrative controls
  • Offline Support:the supposed Holy Grail of web based applications, ShareOffice utilizes ShareDrive OnDemand to provide offline access to documents and synchronization of files and folders.This is a big win for those of us who want to get some work done during a long flight.
  • Enterprise Document Management:customizable taxonomies for large-scale document collections, usage analytics, version control, approval workflows, and full text search
  • AppExchange / integration:ShareOffice is already integrated as part of AppExchange (ShareOffice for AppExchange) and provides the ability to launch and save dynamic documents via Accounts and Opportunities.These documents can contain automatically inserted data from
  • Open Standards Internet File System (IFS):users can navigate through a familiar multi-level file and folder model for online documents based on a worldwide open standard for document sharing running purely in AJAX
  • Open Standards Document Export:spreadsheets can be exported to Excel, PDF, OpenOffice, OpenDocument, XML while documents can be exported to HTML, Word, and PDF
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA):ShareOffice offers a service level agreement for businesses committing to application availability of 99.9%
  • Real-Time Collaboration:Another big win in an age of distributed workforces and remote collaboration, multiple users can work together on their online documents and spreadsheets in real-time on a global basis.
Now that you are officially excited about ShareOffice and raring to give it a try, here is the catch: it is not free.For use as a stand-alone service (e.g., not as part of AppExchange), pricing ranges from US $5 to US $45 per user per month depending on the class of user and volume usage.While this is a deal-breaker for some, it is a reasonable fee when compared to the cost of licensing Microsoft Office for an entire workforce.It may be even more enticing if ShareOffice can truly deliver on their promises, and further close the gap between MS Office on the desktop and the current online office suites.How far away are we from the point when all a new employee needs on their first day is a computer, an internet connection and a browser?ShareOffice hopes to make that dream into a reality. And they may well do, but the course is getting crowded and the deep pockets in play are sure to want their way. If you're suffering an acute bout of Office wanderlust, come on down to the front. A free trial account for ShareOffice is available here.