Feeds

Google takes on MS Office with Writely buy

Beta attack, of course

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

The vexed topic of an online word processing system is back on the agenda after Google bought start-up Writely in a potential challenge to Microsoft's desktop suite.

The four-person, Silicon Valley based Writely has been quietly delivering a browser-based word processing and collaboration environment. In true Google style, Writely will stay a "beta" service - where it's been since August 2005 - with new users invited to put their name on a special waiting list.

The move appears as a challenge to Microsoft's Office desktop productivity suite and comes as Microsoft tries to take a bite out of Google's search business. Microsoft on Wednesday announced availability of its Google-like Windows Live Search beta.

Google has, of course, been working towards the concept of a virtual desktop - the desktop being dominated by both Microsoft's productivity software and operating system. The latest Google Desktop beta built on earlier works targeting single desktops, with the ability to search other desktops.

Naturally, this raised one or two privacy and security concerns.

It is not year clear what Google has planned for Writely, although the start up's staffers believe that the deal will provide the level of resources previously lacked to improve the service. "Coming to Google will eventually give us a leg up on getting things done that we just haven't been able to with our tiny team," Writely said on its site.

The immediate prospect is, naturally, for a scalable version of a hosted desktop productivity suite, a nirvana that has eluded the industry since the late 1990s. Sun Microsystems' $73.5m acquisition of Star Division, and StarOffice, in 1999 sparked this concept, but StarOffice turned into just another client alternative to Office.

Around that time, Microsoft started to kick around the idea of a hosted version of Office, and engaged in some low-level pilots that failed to yield any service. Many, meanwhile, leapt on Microsoft's concept of Office Live, announced in 2005, as a hosted version of the ubiquitous suite. A hosted version of Office is almost certainly out of the picture for now, as Microsoft is locking down Office 2007.

Writely does offer something of a challenge to Microsoft, because - like Office - it is going beyond the traditional concept of "just" word processing, unlike Sun's StarOffice.

Writely adds online collaboration and sharing, notions that are being pushed hard by Microsoft in newer versions of Office through integration with the Windows server family. Writely features include version control, document sharing, and the ability to post documents as Word, OpenOffice, RTF, PDF, HTML and zip files. There is also support for popular blog services, enabling users to write and publish their blogs from within Writely.

Any Google/Writely service will take a lot of honing if it is intended to compete against Office, though. One Writely staffer called the service "far from perfect," a point Microsoft highlighted in down playing news of the acquisition itself and any competition from Google. "

A Microsoft spokesperson tactfully welcomed competition in the Office marketplace, but said Microsoft's suite is the "the clear leader" because customers benefit from the company's focus on making them become "more productive." Google was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
Business is back, baby! Hasta la VISTA, Win 8... Oh, yeah, Windows 9
Forget touchscreen millennials, Microsoft goes for mouse crowd
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
Lotus Notes inventor Ozzie invents app to talk to people on your phone
Imagine that. Startup floats with voice collab app for Win iPhone
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.