Feeds

Google takes on MS Office with Writely buy

Beta attack, of course

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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.®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Euro Parliament VOTES to BREAK UP GOOGLE. Er, OK then
It CANNA do it, captain.They DON'T have the POWER!
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
NSA SOURCE CODE LEAK: Information slurp tools to appear online
Now you can run your own intelligence agency
Post-Microsoft, post-PC programming: The portable REVOLUTION
Code jockeys: count up and grab your fabulous tablets
Twitter App Graph exposes smartphone spyware feature
You don't want everyone to compile app lists from your fondleware? BAD LUCK
Microsoft adds video offering to Office 365. Oh NOES, you'll need Adobe Flash
Lovely presentations... but not on your Flash-hating mobe
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.