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DocSyncer helps wean users from Microsoft Office

It's a good solution--for now.

In my preview of the Under the Radar conference I questioned the business viability of the document management product DocSyncer, which, among other things, takes users' Microsoft Office files (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) and synchronizes them into a Google Docs or Google Apps account.

After taking a closer look at this business, I think there's something very valuable here, at least for the short term. Businesses that don't want to install Office on all employees' machines can, with this tool, still give them easy access to the files that the high-zoot Office users are working on. Of course, you could do something similar with an Office alternative such as Open Office or Zoho, but then you wouldn't get Google's real-time collaboration features, plus there's no easy sync with people who prefer to use Office. Even Microsoft's own new Office Live Workspace doesn't offer live collaboration (see Extend your Office apps via Live Workspace), and it requires a change in user behavior. DocSyncer just takes existing Office docs and makes them available via Google Docs. The product also offers versioning on Office documents, which Office doesn't do natively.

Of course, not all the features from Office map to Google, so users may experience some hiccups in the transition, especially when using Google's very limited spreadsheet and presenter applications. I was not very pleased when I tried the product last night and it immediately started syncing all my documents to Google. I'd like more control. CEO Cliff Shaw says that's coming.

Limitations notwithstanding, the $40 per user per year fee is extremely reasonable for a business application, and certainly provides a better revenue steam to the company than free.

Microsoft could squash this company by releasing a true online product suite, not just the shared Web file store that Office Live Workspace offers. DocSyncer's CEO says his product offers business a "gentle transition" to online productivity application. I buy that, but I will worry for the business when Microsoft ultimately decides to provide its own transition.