It is fascinating watching the various enterprise file-sharing and synchronization (EFSS) vendors dance a complex dance with vendors like Microsoft. While clearly competing with Microsoft's own EFSS solutions, OneDrive, and SharePpint, these solutions also want to support customers who are deeply wedded to Microsoft's office productivity suite, Office.
We can see this not-so-subtle dance in action with EFSS vendor Box. The company, which once famously had t-shirts printed with the SharePoint logo changed to "SharePoo," has in recent years gotten far friendlier with Microsoft, with deep integration between its own solution and Microsoft's suite. While competition and criticism might make great press, the reality is that the EFSS vendors' own customers likely use Office and don't look favorably at walled gardens.
We see this in play today with another EFSS vendor, Huddle. The UK-founded, but now very internationally focused, Huddle has seen good success as a vendor to government customers. It famously had early approval with an entire-government deal with the UK government. Since then, Huddle has expanded and moved ever wider, both geographically and from a product focus perspective.
Huddle is today announcing the release/general availability of Huddle Desktop, a series of new integrations that aim to streamline and simplify the desktop experience for users. What this means in actual use is that by way of its deeper integrations for Microsoft Office and Outlook, users can now review, edit, save, comment and attach content to emails without ever leaving their native Microsoft applications. The workflow is logical - a user is sitting in a Microsoft Office application and really doesn't want to have to leave the application in order to save a document. It is, therefore, the responsibility of Huddle to ensure they can do so - and this is what is happening.
In addition to the saving and opening functionality, the new desktop application will also allow users to search through all of their content on Huddle, surface relevant content, and save recent documents for offline work.
The customer demand and value stand to reason. "Our goal is to make document collaboration as simple and intuitive as possible," explains Huddle CTO Stuart Cochran. "Huddle Desktop is all about personal productivity: the app provides instant access to recent work, allows users to manage offline availability, controls and prevents version conflicts, and enables you to search all of your Huddle content. Huddle's cross-platform recent files mean you can pick up on a document you were just reading on your iPhone or iPad and start editing on your Windows PC or Mac immediately."
In terms of what this means for customers, key features of Huddle Desktop include:
- Full integration with Microsoft Office – save files to Huddle from Word, Excel and PowerPoint, read and make Huddle comments directly from Microsoft Office applications, and archive any Outlook email and its attachments to a Huddle project workspace or attach Huddle files to email.
- Quick, direct access to relevant files – along with instant search from the desktop, Huddle Desktop provides instant access to the files users need most, across all their projects and teams.
- Eliminate version conflicts – users have the ability to lock a document, preventing any overlapping edits and providing full transparency into the status of any document at any time.
Apart from the utility for Huddle customers, which is obvious, it is an interesting glimpse into the state of the EFSS market generally. It's a fascinating sector with, on the one hand, the big vendors with existing Office Productivity suites (Microsoft and Google), and, on the other, the standalone EFSS vendors (Huddle, Box, Egnyte, Dropbox and many others) trying to undermine the large vendors' EFSS solutions while, at the same time, trying to integrate deeply with their office suites.
Huddle's integration with Microsoft is very much table-stakes for EFSS vendors and, as such, doesn't really give it any sort of competitive differentiation. What the future holds for all of these standalone solutions, however, is a far more interesting question.
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