Dutch company O3Spaces has released collaboration software that it says rivals Microsoft's SharePoint.

The software, called Workplace, works with open-source suites StarOffice and OpenOffice.org and is one more step in providing an equivalent alternative to Microsoft's ubiquitous Office software.

Its release comes as Microsoft is revving up its marketing machine around a new version of the Office suite. In an interview with the BBC this week, Microsoft's Chris Capossela admitted that one of its biggest challeges is "to fight that perception that old versions of software are good enough".

OpenOffice.org and its commercial sibling StarOffice, sponsored by Sun, compete directly with Microsoft Office and can handle Office document formats, but have not included back-office tools such as SharePoint. O3Spaces is aiming to change that, saying it allows users to carry out most functions from within OpenOffice or StarOffice.

O3Spaces is built in J2EE, on top of Apache Tomcat and the PostgreSQL database management system, and is designed to work with any LDAP directory service. It runs on Linux, Solaris and 32-bit Windows.

Users can access documents stored in O3Spaces via OpenOffice, through a customisable AJAX web interface or via an optional Java-based Desktop Assistant. The search technology handles pdf, OpenOffice's native ODF and Microsoft Office formats.

Features include alerts for automatic notification of document changes, O3Messenger for communicating with shared calendars, workflow management and discussion boards. Document version control and check-in/check-out are built in, as is Rights Management Services for determining how documents are distributed and used.

"Our initial presentation of the software at CeBIT 2006 generated a lot of interest and our trials in Germany and the Netherlands proved to be very successful," said O3Spaces chief executive Rob Mentink. "This makes OpenOffice.org a viable alternative to expensive proprietary technologies such as Microsoft Office and SharePoint."

Workplace is licensed on a per-user basis for fewer than 100 users, and a per-virtual-CPU basis for more than 100 users, with subscriptions covering product updates, support calls and wiki support. Pricing starts at 295 euros for a five-user licence or 5,900 euros for 100 users. Users can try out the program with a pre-configured VMWare appliance, available from O3Spaces' website.