Feeds

Google takes on MS Office with Writely buy

Beta attack, of course

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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.®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.