UK-based startup oneDrum has launched a closed beta of its free, real-time collaboration platform for Microsoft Office.
The application is designed to add secure, synchronised file sharing and version management, simultaneous, multi-author document creation and editing, and communication and co-ordination tools.
"Collaboration as we know it is broken, and too many technology providers are trying to fix this with tools that force users to change their working habits," said Jasper Westaway, founder and chief executive of oneDrum.
"The first release of oneDrum enhances the tools that 90 per cent of the global IT-enabled workforce is already using - Microsoft Office - but the technology we've created can be applied equally to any application."
Microsoft has made some moves in this direction with the development of Office Live, but it is limited to one user editing or controlling a document at a time, while others can only 'watch'.
OneDrum also aims to let multiple users author and edit the same document simultaneously, displaying every users' edits on the screen in real time.
The software will also store a local copy of the document on the computer of all those involved, allowing them to access and modify the latest version of the file while offline. Any offline changes will be synchronised with other users, and conflicts resolved, as soon as the user reconnects to the internet.
To enhance collaboration, oneDrum also features contextual communication tools, such as instant messaging, treating documents as projects to which tasks and questions can be assigned.
The system works with any version of Microsoft Office, and includes built-in security, user control and edit tracking to ensure that vital information is not inadvertently lost.
"Collaboration should be about working together to make things better," said Westaway. "This is why we are inviting 1,000 early adopters to test oneDrum and help us to shape its development so that we are sure to create a tool that fits users' needs, rather than forcing users to fit the tool."
Westaway also announced his intention to form a new political party to encourage more collaboration in society. He is calling on each of the UK's 646 parliamentary constituencies to push for innovation and the use of IT to help get the UK on the road to economic and social recovery, including lobbying government for legislation giving all office workers the right to work from home at least one day a month.
The 1,000 registrant limit for the oneDrum beta has already been reached and vnunet.com has been included in the list, so keep an eye out for a review soon.
The company will be adding new invitations soon, and is encouraging anyone interested to sign up now to receive information as development progresses.
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