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Google's PowerPoint beater beta is go

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Google's attempt at a net-based PowerPoint slayer has gone live just in time for the firm's web-worshipping warlocks to celebrate the autumn equinox.

The cursed "& Spreadsheets" suffix has been dropped from the online office suite too. The PowerPoint, Word and Excel copies are now collectively known by the snappier title Google Docs.

Google Grand High Witch and Burning Man crusty Eric Schmidt announced the presentation wheel of the Google Apps bandwagon at the Web 2.0 conference in April. The following day the acquisition of Java-based presentations start-up Tonic Systems was revealed. The corporate blog said: "Our due date is this summer. We promise to share family photos just as soon as we can."

While in parts of the UK it got below freezing overnight, the official end of summer according to the druid-favoured astronomical calendar isn't until September 22/23, so - praise be to fertility goddess Anu - the promised child is with us on schedule.

The Tonic buy was bolstered with the acquisition of fellow start-up Zenter in June, the company chosen for its work on a web-based presentations front-end. At launch, however, there are only 15 themes available and it won't export to .ppt.

As the feature set is so limited, Google's pushing the collaboration angle hardest for now. Google Docs engineering chief Sam Schillace said: "Putting documents in the cloud surrounded by easy to use features for collaboration and sharing can save people hours of inefficiency and frustration* and even enable new ways of working together."

For those unsure about giving Google access to all their work documents, it's also giving away a free version of Sun's $70 Star Office in an attempt to get more of its toolbars and VoIP clients on PCs. ®

*We're not management consultants, but in our experience, hours of inefficiency and frustration can be saved by just not having slide shows. ®

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