Feeds

Google takes on MS Office with Writely buy

Beta attack, of course

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

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.®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
Time to move away from Windows 7 ... whoa, whoa, who said anything about Windows 8?
Start migrating now to avoid another XPocalypse – Gartner
You'll find Yoda at the back of every IT conference
The piss always taking is he. Bastard the.
HANA has SAP cuddling up to 'smaller partners'
Wanted: algorithm wranglers, not systems giants
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
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.