I’ll be honest. I never quite understood what you could do with Huddle that you couldn’t with, say, the latest versions of Microsoft Office. (Woah, steady on there. I’m just sayin’. And since you bring it up, yes, I think Word 2007 is the best word processor ever conceived by man. No, really.) Sure, it was nice and shiny, and I liked the people who worked there, and Gosh! they seem to be growing pretty quickly, don’t they? What is it now, 30 members of staff?
But I never really got it… until this morning, that is. This morning, when, after receiving a mailshot about a few fairly minor new features, I thought I’d log in again and give it another try, after perhaps nine months. Crikey. It’s bloody marvellous, isn’t it? Looks great, works great, and of course my comparison with Office is unfair: to use Groove, for example, you have to have everyone in your team using a version of Office with it installed. In a world were IE6 still reigns supreme in corporate environments (the last big company I worked for – a media organisation – was still stuck in the dark ages in that respect), it’s not a given that everyone will be upgraded promptly.
Huddle, on the other hand, is completely web-based, and so platform and office suite agnostic, but it’s also file format agnostic. You can upload any kind of file to collaborate on. A Zoho-powered editor enables you to work on Word and Excel files together directly in the browser. You need only visit the homepage to see who’s using the service these days, from big corporations to government departments.
But I have a question. Why on earth isn’t there a mobile version?
I’ve always wondered why Huddle doesn’t have a mobile site or app of some kind. I mean, seriously: why no iPhone app, guys? Isn’t that a no-brainer for this kind of tool? Apparently, I’m not the only person to think this: Huddle conducted its own user survey recently that revealed a mobile app was the number one feature request from existing customers. So can we hope for something from the company soon? In a word: yes, as co-founder Andy McLoughlin told me this afternoon. (He didn’t elaborate, save to say it would be “awesome”. Obviously.)
So, the matter of mobile dealt with, I suppose the other big consideration for Huddle-watchers is the imminent arrival of Google Wave. What does it mean for Huddle?
According to McLoughlin, nothing particularly bad: “We’ll integrate it as part of our solution. We’re very excited about it.” But doesn’t Wave pull the rug out from under Huddle’s feet a little? “No, not really. Wave isn’t a complete solution on its own. Most of the exciting stuff people are doing with it capitalises on the technology under the hood. That’s what we’ll be doing too.”
In case you were wondering, the new features that prompted me to investigate Huddle again are a new online media viewer (no more downloading JPGs just to find out if you need to download them); easier sign-in; easier invitations to new users from within Huddle workspaces; improved discussion notifications and new dashboard and workspace welcome pages. Oh, and they take AmEx now, too.