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Google is launching an online spreadsheet that will let you load Excel files and share documents online.

Up to 10 people can work on the spreadsheet at the same time - the names of people editing and reading it will appear in a chat window.

Users can save the documents to their Google account or export them as .csv, .xls or html files. Like the launch of Gmail, Google is limiting the number of new users for software - still in beta - to avoid overloading its systems.

More details, and sign up, from Google here or from AP here.

Excited observers have been predicting Google will offer a "Microsoft Office killer" for some time. The purchase of online word processing company Writely in March fueled the fantasy. Before that, in October 2005, it was a deal with Sun that was going to provide a Google-branded Star Office.

But if Google can offer proper online software services before Microsoft can get its Windows Live juggernaut moving, it might win by default. ®

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