wikiCalc – a real corporate alternative?

I posted about Google Spreadsheets recently, and why I thought it wasn’t really a good step for Google, since their product lacked features of already-available online spreadsheets and didn’t really have a chance at attracting a large user base, especially in a business environment. However, wikiCalc is an application that looks it might make some headway here, especially after its agreement with SocialText.

Created by Dan Bricklin, the guy who created the first spreadsheet application, it is basically what its name purports it to be – a spreadsheet that can be edited and viewed by a community. Current online spreadsheets already offer this ability, so what’s the big deal then?

Well, for one, it’s the way in which the data is stored. As I mentioned before, companies are not going to want to store their sensitive financial records in spreadsheets on public servers, no matter what privacy, security, or encryption is guaranteed. To solve this problem, wikiCalc is a package that can be installed on to a server of one’s choosing, say one on the company’s intranet. In this way, access can be better controlled, and managers can feel safter about their data.

The benefits are clear, as pointed out by Mike Arrington over at Tech Crunch. No more having to e-mail copies back and forth, as a single copy can be edited, stored and changed at will, with every update stored so that changes can be rolled back to any prior state. It’s a like an advanced version control system, except for spreadsheets instead of code. These are real benefits.

This will make it sort of a “half-way” Web2.0 application – not really on the Internet, but offering all the benefits, just on the smaller scale of a local network or corporate intranet. While these benefits should be attractive, we’ll have to see if companies will really adopt it – sometimes business is resistant to change, especially when they’ve spent years with Microsoft products that “already work”.

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