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Central Desktop: Office Collaboration Without Office 2010

The biggest selling point for the soon-to-ship Microsoft Office 2010 is its new features for storing documents online and editing them with coworkers. At Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco this week, Central Desktop, whose business collaboration service competes with Microsoft’s SharePoint, was previewing a new service with an intriguing proposition: Get Office 2010-like collaboration without Office 2010.

Based on technology from OffiSync, Central Desktop for Office works with Office 2003 and 2007 as well as 2010. It’s a plug-in for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint which lets you open files saved on Central Desktop’s servers, edit them within the Office apps, manage changes from multiple colleagues, and save merged documents back to the cloud.  It certainly doesn’t eliminate the need for Office 2010–for one thing, it lacks anything like Microsoft’s new Office Web Apps file viewer/editors–but it’s worth a look if you’re allergic to big upgrades. (Unlike SharePoint, Central Desktop is hosted; unlike Office 2010, it offers team editing in Excel as well as Word and PowerPoint.)

Central Desktop for Office is due for release next month. Some of its features will be built into Central Desktop plans at various prices, and full access will cost around an extra $2 per user per month.