Let’s face it – despite significant hand-waving to the contrary, Microsoft Outlook is the default email client for the vast majority of the enterprise world. No matter how much people love to hate the fact, Outlook is both widely understood and the accepted norm. I’ve talked to a number of people involved in deploying Google apps into enterprise sites and often the case is that this is in fact an infrastructure play – the organization uses Google as an exchange replacement but maintains its existing desktop clients.
This situation is a huge barrier to Google apps proper gaining traction – users are unlikely to edit a Google apps document, only to have to jump through hoops in order to collaborate on that document with others – as vendor MainSoft asks, what happens when you use Microsoft Outlook for e-mail, and you’re interested in using Google Docs? Is SharePoint + Google Docs: An Oxymoron? Not anymore, and this is an announcement that even I, jaded as I am from product pitches, am getting excited about.
Effective today, Mainsoft is offering full-featured access to Google Docs documents directly from within Microsoft Outlook. Their belief is that e-mail and document collaboration sites need to work together seamlessly – so end users can be more productive. They’re also planning to give away software that offers full-featured access to SharePoint document libraries, within Microsoft Outlook. So to reiterate – full use of Google docs within Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft SharePoint – tools enterprise users are used to, with the significant benefits that the cloud brings.
The Mainsoft product is called Harmony and will be a free product and has been built using SharePoint Web Services interfaces and Google Docs open APIs, giving full-featured access to Google Docs or SharePoint documents from an Outlook sidebar. Users can
share, locate, and manage centralized documents directly from their e-mail client.
A brief overview of the features that are available for Outlook and SharePoint users:
From within Outlook, people can:
- Publish and share document links:
- Drag documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and PDF files to the Harmony sidebar to upload them to Google Docs.
- Share documents automatically. Drag Google document links to a new e-mail message, and Harmony will automatically share it with recipients listed in the user’s Outlook or Gmail address books. The email sender decides whether each email recipient gets read or editing rights to the online documents. Recipients can view and edit the documents on Google Docs, using a free Google account.
- Replace attachments with links and send e-mail, in one step. When composing or forwarding an e-mail with attachments, Harmony prompts the user to publish the documents online and send a link instead.
- Find documents from the convenience of e-mail:
- Search the contents of users’ entire collection of Google Docs documents from the Harmony search bar.
- Locate documents users have permission to access using views, folders, sorting, and starred documents.
- Work on Google Docs documents:
- Organize documents in folders; star, share, rename, or hide them.
- Open and edit Google Docs documents in Outlook, including Microsoft Office, PDF, and Open Office formats.
Of course the question this raises is why on earth this is a free product. This would seem to solve such a pain point (at least for Google resellers and, I’d imagine, for Google also although they’re unlikely to admit it) that Mainsoft should have people more than willing to pay for the product. Mainsoft CEO Yaacov Cohen told me that their strategy is a freemium one – the current product is free but future products that will include functionality that IT departments want (granular control, permissioning, central admin etc) will potentially be paid. I’m not sure if I’m convinced about this approach – Harmony provides significant value today (heck, the saving in traffic by not emailing attachments alone is significant for a large organization) that I believe they’d be able to monetize from day one.
Either way I’m really impressed by what Mainsoft have created with Harmony and I’m marking them as a company to watch.