Japan's Handbook Hits US to Improve the Lives of Road Warriors and Boardroom Ninjas

By Michael Carney , written on September 27, 2012

From The News Desk

For your average corporate road warrior, the “presentation” is a an essential weapon, but a moment to be both respected and feared. Anyone on the job long enough has a horror story to share about a technical glitch that ruined an otherwise perfectly choreographed dance. Japanese software maker Infoteria, a publicly traded company, is bring to the US market one of its most popular international products to alleviate most if not all device and file compatibility issues, not to mention save preparation professionals time on formatting and design.

Handbook is a Web and mobile content manager and presentation app the lets users combine a wide variety of file types – documents, spreadsheets, videos, photos, PDF files, etc. – directly into a single collection which can then be published, presented, and shares. The softwares offers more real-time flexibility than traditional linearly constrained presentation software, allowing users to flip through connected files in a Flipboard-like interface, quickly changing the order based on need.

Users utilize the Handbook web dashboard to designate which files should be added to a given collection, and institute any relevant security settings. Users can pull files from a local server or use the Dropbox integration to pull them from the cloud – for the enterprise, it may want to consider adding Box or in the future Salesforce’s Chatterbox. The process is far simpler and more expedient than formatting and designing a typical Powerpoint presentation.

Then, on an iOS or Android mobile device, the files are available in both online or offline mode for use and manipulation. In the future, the company plans to add the ability to create new collections through the mobile app. Each handbook has three customizable layouts, which alter the way files are displayed. The  most novel seems to be the gallery or “title layout,” which separates the summaries of sections into six equal-sized boxes that users can flip through to select and view a desired file.

While in presentation mode, users can annotate PDF files on-screen. Handbook also offers a fingertip-controlled “pointer dot” tool that allows the presenter to direct attention to key points of a given screen. The software even offers a survey and quiz functionality for use in classroom or training environments.

Because it was designed for enterprise use, Handbook includes administrator and content creator controls around privacy and sharing. LDAP integration supports enterprise-wide single-sign-on. Further, files can be set to appear and disappear from view at particular times, and for particular users. This feature allows presenters to share files with their audience at preselected times. It also allows remote team members to update documents and collections in an instant when information changes. In industries like financial services and healthcare, the ability to control document permissions is likely to be one of Handbook’s most popular features.

There is nothing like Handbook available in US market currently, though the product has been available in Japan for three years and has 10,000 paying customers. When Infoteria decided to attack the Western market, it acquired bay area software development and sales company Extentech in May of this year.

Extentech founder and CEO John McMahon is now CTO of US operations and has led business model and product localization for the past four months. The company has settled on a SaaS model for its US offering that is dramatically different, and more affordable, than its international counterpart. Consumers have McMahon to thank for that.

Handbook will be available for a free 30 day trial to a limited number of users per organization. After that the starter plan will cost $30 per month for up to 10 users and ten content “books” or collections. Two higher tiers at $99 and $199 per month, both increase the number of users to 50, but offer 50 and unlimited numbers of books respectively.  All accounts include 1GB of storage space. In nearly all cases this should be sufficient, however it could be problematic in cases of 3D CAD renderings or large video projects.

It should apparent to anyone that demo’s the software that Handbook is a novel approach to document and presentation management. For large corporations, the enterprise-grade feature set will be welcomed, and the pricing a non-issue. For smaller businesses and especially consumers, the entire package is likely to be overkill. The fact that the product is mature and market-tested should also go a long way toward comforting uncertain procurement managers and IT departments.

How the US market receives Handbook will in large part have to do with how well McMahon and his team succeed in repositioning it from its Japanese parent. The early results look promising, but to bastardize a popular expression, you can lead a user to an new and improved solution, but you can’t make them subscribe.