Huddle gives its content collaboration suite a Word and OneNote alternative

The company also revamped its app for iPads and iPhones to take advantage of improvements in iOS 7

Huddle's enterprise content collaboration suite now has a native component for creating, editing, and sharing documents, an attempt by the company to reduce its customers' usage of Microsoft's Word and OneNote applications.

Huddle Note, as the new application is called, is designed for quick, ad-hoc taking and sharing of notes within the cloud suite's interface, a more convenient option, the company hopes, to using third-party word processors and note-taking apps.

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"We wanted to let users create lightweight content within Huddle, and not have to go elsewhere to do it, and share the documents right from there," said Alastair Mitchell, Huddle's CEO. "It's very natural for us to build a tool like this."

Huddle's suite, which is cloud-based, competes against Microsoft's SharePoint server in areas like file sharing, document management, building intranets and extranets, and content collaboration. Thus, cutting into its customers' use of Word and OneNote is right in line with Huddle's overall strategy to position itself as an alternative to SharePoint.

Huddle is the latest enterprise collaboration vendor to prep a native content creation application. Box, the file-sharing and cloud storage phenom, plans to release next year a similar app called Notes, while Tibbr, Tibco's ESN (enterprise social networking) suite, recently released one called Pages.

"Simple note taking/sharing is quickly becoming table stakes for cloud content collaboration services where the focus is around delivering a more 'engaging' experience," IDC analyst Vanessa Thompson said via email. "Building this capability into the platform means that users don't need to leave in order to make notes in another application or service. Targeting an in-application experience helps users stay productive inside one environment."

Huddle Note is available now at no extra charge for customers. It works via the main desktop interface and also on Huddle's iOS and Android apps. "Wherever you're using Huddle, you can use Note," Huddle's Mitchell said. It will also be on Huddle's upcoming Windows Phone app.

Mitchell cautions that the goal for Note isn't to be a head-to-head rival for full-featured word processing applications, in particular because Huddle doesn't want Note to become "bloated" with features and thus cumbersome to use.

"We're going to keep it simple," he said. "Our use case is simple content creation."

In addition to creating, editing and sharing documents, Note also lets users track changes made to files via a version control feature, as well as review usage logs that display who has viewed the document.

Users will be able to post comments in documents, and those comments will be date and time-stamped. Document creators can request that others approve and sign off on their files by a specific date.

As a native component of the Huddle suite, Note will be governed by the suite's security features, access control mechanisms and IT administration capabilities.

"This gives us a good head-start on Box," Mitchell said, alluding to Box Notes, which is in private beta testing and due to ship early next year.

Right now, users can create Huddle Note documents that contain text and photos, but later they will be able to embed videos as well.

Huddle has a close partnership with Tibco's Tibbr, which Mitchell compares to the competing tandems of enterprise document collaboration and ESN suites formed by Box and Jive Software, and by SharePoint and Yammer, which Microsoft acquired last year.

Huddle also released on Tuesday a new version of its iOS application that has been redesigned for iOS 7, in particular Huddle's activity stream, files section and task management area.

Huddle is primarily sold as a public cloud service, although the company offers private cloud deployments for government clients in the U.S. and the U.K., according to a spokesman. The Workgroup Edition, for at least 25 users, starts at US$20 per user, per month. There are also the more sophisticated Enterprise Edition, for at least 50 users, and the Unlimited Edition, which has no user maximum.

End users access the Huddle software via browsers, its iOS and Android mobile applications and desktop software on Windows and Mac OS computers. Huddle can be integrated and used in conjunction with third-party applications like Tibbr, Zimbra, Salesforce.com, and Photoshop, and with Microsoft's Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and SharePoint.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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