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Google has launched a service designed to pilfer Microsoft Office users.

On Monday, the search giant released Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, a service that lets Microsoft customers upload Office docs to Google's servers, so they can be edited and exchanged via Mountain View's existing Google Docs online word processor.

Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office targets people who run Office 2010 (the latest version), 2007, and 2003, and it even lets you use Google Docs with what Google called a "familiar Office interface."

Uploaded Office docs are synced, backed-up, and given a unique URL enabling them to be accessed from anywhere, even mobile phones. Docs can be shared and simultaneously edited.

Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office is based on DocVerse, a web-based collaboration tools for Office customers bought by Google in March. The DocVerse infrastructure has now been migrated to, and integrated with, the existing Google Docs set-up

The service is somewhat like SharePoint, the Microsoft's Office collaboration and sharing back end server. Recently, Microsoft has been offering SharePoint as the back end to the business editions of the web-based version of Office, Office Web apps. Microsoft is also offering a hosted version of SharePoint underneath its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) - recently re-branded Office 360.

As Google attempts to pilfer Office users, Microsoft has rallied the troops. Microsoft is been paying partners to de-install Gmail for Microsoft services, and it's been been pounding the press with talk of big-name customer wins for its hosted services, such as the State of Minnesota going to BPOS for 30,0000 government email and collaboration users.

Microsoft customers are unlikely to switch in significant numbers from SharePoint – at least not yet – but Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office is another piece designed to nibble away at Microsoft and establish a permanent foothold in the community of Microsoft information workers.

Once the docs are installed in Google's cloud Office, Microsoft's users will become permanently connected as the documents are worked on and gain value as pieces of business collateral over time.

In a blog post here, Goole group product manager Shan Sinha recognized that Google Docs cannot displace Office. Instead, the strategy is to slide in along side.

"Tens of millions of people have moved to Google Docs because it's 100% web: it provides real-time collaboration in the browser, with no software to install, manage or upgrade. Of course, we know that many more of you still use Microsoft Office, because until recently, there weren't many tools to help you collaborate and share with others. Now there's more choice," Sinha said. ®

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