March 9, 2006 1:38 PM PST

Google buys Web word-processing technology

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Showing that it's more than a little interested in enabling people to handle office tasks over the Internet, Google said Thursday that it has acquired Upstartle, maker of a Web-based word processor called Writely.

The acquisition was noted on both Writely's main Web site and on a blog run by co-founder Claudia Carpenter.

"Yes, we've been acquired by Google," Carpenter wrote. In a frequently asked questions page on Writely's site, the word processor company says it doesn't yet know what the implications of the sale are.

"We haven't yet figured out all the details," Writely said on its site. "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."

A Google representative confirmed the deal in an e-mail. "We acquired Writely for the innovative technology and talented team," Google said in a statement. "We're thrilled to have them here." The purchase price was not disclosed.

Google declined further comment, though it did post some information on its own company blog.

Google noted that Writely remains in beta and that there is currently a waiting list for people wanting to use the service.

Writely was launched in August of last year by privately held Upstartle. The company added a "Save to PDF" function in December, one of several features it said would eventually be part of a paid premium service, once the program emerged out of beta testing. Writely can also handle documents saved in the OpenDocument format, as well as files created by OpenOffice, an open-source rival to Microsoft Office.

There has been considerable speculation that Google would look to create a Web-based rival to Microsoft's dominant software suite, speculation that was fueled in October when Google announced a partnership with Sun Microsystems, which has been a leading backer of OpenOffice. That same month, Google also said it was hiring several programmers to help work on improving OpenOffice.

Writely is one of several companies that offer hosted productivity applications.

In a previous interview, Carpenter said the company has considered creating a hosted spreadsheet to complement its online word processor. But the company's strategy is to emphasize collaborative features rather than simply re-create Microsoft Office online.

"The last thing we want to do is compete with Microsoft head-to-head," Carpenter said in February.

Microsoft noted that more than 400 million people use its Office product.

"Microsoft Office is the clear leader in what has always been a very competitive space," Microsoft senior marketing manager Erik Ryan said in a statement. "We welcome competition in the marketplace and believe it is healthy for the industry as a whole and good for customers."

CNET News.com's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report.

See more CNET content tagged:
Writely, Google Inc., word-processor, OpenOffice, word-processing

20 comments

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hmm i wonder why Microsoft wasnt available for comment...
either ******** a brick, or buying a chair company so they can throw them cheaper, and use the broken parts for a highly hyped, buggy, useless product...did i mention overpriced
Posted by Nocturnex (163 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why?
This is about as much as a threat to MS Office as OpenOffice purports to be. OpenOffice is free, handles MS Office documents, but still remains an also-ran in usage.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Link Flag
We are going to be Googled
Google is slowly adding itself to all markets....

And we thought Microsoft was going to take over the world....
Posted by itworker--2008 (130 comments )
Reply Link Flag
My crystal ball says
any company that aims to collect all the world's information is heading for trouble. That anti-trust trial will make Microsoft's look like a walk in the park.
Posted by Betty Roper (121 comments )
Link Flag
I sure hope so...
Their products are works of art. I like Google a lot!
It seems that they just keep producing one product after another. And they offer them all for free. It's almost as though they do it just because they can. That's a good way to develop a customer base is to offer them free things and keep them coming back. Humans are creatures of habit.
Hopefully they don't one day decide to start charging for everything. Although that would be really smart of them to do after they've developed products that everyone wants. But I don't think that's their style.
Posted by coryschulz (326 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft DID take over the world! Google's taking it back.
Competition is a good thing. Let the corps battle it out and
compete for our ad dollars.
Posted by dotmike (154 comments )
Link Flag
Before MS boasted about how many users, what did they say?
Before MS boasted about how many users use there software
(before they became a Monopoly), what did they say was the
reason people chose their product??

They always say the samething when confronted with
competition: "we have a "gazillion" users of our software". They
never say they have a better product or other difference. Is size
the ONLY reason buyers should ignore a competitive product??
Compatibility can be acheived through Standard formats
therefore it is not necessary to by the "safe", "most used"
product in terms of volume.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OR, If your friend jumps off a bridge, should you too?
Let me make my point another way.

Microsoft always says that we should ignore the competition
because they (MS) have "millions of users". They say this every
time they face competition. It's a compatibility argument, and
threat.

I say, remember what your mother told you: "If your friend
jumped off a bridge, would you too?"
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Link Flag
LOTUS "KONA" ANYONE!...
... this article states in part; "the company has considered creating a hosted spreadsheet to complement its online word processor. But the company's strategy is to emphasize collaborative features rather than simply re-create Microsoft Office online.

"The last thing we want to do is compete with Microsoft head-to-head," Carpenter said in February.

Microsoft noted that more than 400 million people use its Office product.

"Microsoft Office is the clear leader in what has always been a very competitive space," Microsoft senior marketing manager Erik Ryan said in a statement. "We welcome competition in the marketplace and believe it is healthy for the industry as a whole and good for customers." The question is, what has taken this long for this; and, perhaps other companies to be only now considering "creating a hosted spreadsheet to complement its online word processor"... Has anyone remembered L_O_T_U_S - "K_O_N_A"! :-(

"Lotus brews potent Java with Kona":

See link:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.morochove.com/watch/cw/ff70206.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.morochove.com/watch/cw/ff70206.htm</a>
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
One Question For Microsoft...
... is; how does the percentage of the users of the "400 million people" that use its "S_P_R_E_A_D_S_H_E_E_T" that is integrated in its Office product get their Economic Rate of Return (ERR) computation done; and, in which countries around the world! ;-) ;-) ;-)
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Link Flag
You have apoint
Yes, Lotus KONA and other similar attempts have largely fallen on deaf ears. Two major differences with the current situation though: Lotus was selling KONA and Lotus didn't have the reach of Google or brain space that Google shares with it hundreds of millions of users.

Taking marketsahre away from MS in the Office space is no small taks - OpenOffice is gradually doing it and with OpenDocuments standard being pushed and with consumers finally catching onto the concept of online services (remember MS was ignoring online and so corporates didn't see it as viable - MS can't ignore it anymore ie. MSlive - and as such consumers are starting to move toward it) its much more a of a goer now.

Microsoft has never welcomed competition in relity, but they don't have much choice now so they do what they always do: embrace, emasculate and then extinguish. However they don't have the upper hand here, even though they own the Office space, they don't own the Internet mind share and in fact run a distant third so they are up against a real problem - especially when you consider that Google has a habit of doing what MS did to gain market share - giving the product away.

Also, the speed of the net has increased for most users and java is ubiquitous now (even EEE strategy noted above) so this concept is not only doable but being demanded now.
Posted by gpenglase (87 comments )
Link Flag
Google running scared?
Google is a search company and its home market (bread and butter is under increasing siege) Try www.live.com and search for something (I searched for flowers) and you get the point, while there also try out the cool image search.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google much better than others
Google is by far the best of the most popular search engines. They got that way by having a simple interface without too many "in your face" ads. Microsoft always starts out simple at first, but ruins it later with ads that always get in the way.

I tried out the MS Live search engine, and must admit the new features are sleek. Still, it wouldn't take google much to replicate this capability. What makes google the "king" of search engines are their search algorithms and ability to find relevant info for you. MS has been poor in this category ever since search beame hot. I took your example, "flowers" and switched to images on both...the results were pretty much the same. Then, I narrowed my search to "Gennifer Flowers" and Google easily started showing its superiority with 7 pages of results. MS actually choked on one of the searches. You also cannot easily jump to deeper pages in MS Live to get past all the "flower" ads. It forces you to scroll through the results, unlike Google. Sometimes simpler is better. Then, speaking of scandalous personas, I changed to "Jessica Hahn Playboy" and Google came back with 2 images. MS Live?...ZERO.
Posted by missionhq (3 comments )
Link Flag
Get a life!
How can yu possibly say that they are running scared. If that's the case then Apple's running scared in the music market, and Intuit's running scared in the personal finance software market and Oracles running scared in the Database market and Nokia and Motorola are running scared in mobile phones, and OpenOffice is running scared in the Office market, and Linux is running scared in the server market and Apache is so scared it's piddling itself in the web server market, and ... Need I go on?

In all of these markets MS has attempted or is attempting to take away the market, and has failed. Yes they may be a contender in some of them like with the XBox but to say that these companies are running scared is juvenile. Even Sony's going to (again) kick their butt with the PS3.

Google share of the search market remains fairly constant, but it share in everything else continues to grow - and that's all based in a free enterprise market not a monopoly.
Posted by gpenglase (87 comments )
Link Flag
Unoriginal? No innovation?
Funny...when MS buys a company all the ABM'ers go on tirades about how the company never 'innovates'. But really, other than a search engine (which was not the first) and a good self-serve ad interface, what has google created itself? Seems to me they just have tons of money laying around from their IPO so now they're shopping like they have daddy's credit card.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And your point?
MS has innovated - once they were given the opportunity by IBM they showed the world how a pirate can become the dominate player in any market. They stole, coerced, lied, bullied their way to the top and we have their "innovation" in the art of piracy to thank for the relative lack of progress in the PC industry. - I menan, it's 50+ years on from the first commerical computers, and almost 30 years on from Apple launching the PC revolution, and we still don't have a world where the average person feels comfortable with buying/installing/maintaining a computer.

Look at what has been achieved in health in the last 50 years and it boggles the mind.

Another examples: after inventing the electric motor it only took 30 years for the electric motor to be integrated seemlessly into products of all types - admittedly computers are signficantly more complex, but our world doubles its info every 14 years or less now and we have MS to thank for bloated, unreliable, poorly designed, complex systems which don't actually do a great job at anything. Macs are significantly superior to this end, but Apple stuffed around for about a decade when they saw their marketshare eroded.

MS first and only objective was expansion of their marketshare at all costs, and then the protection of that marketshare - they have never been focused on producing a better product for the sake of being the best - their goal was and still is to be the biggest. That is why innovation comes so rarely from MS, even after they bought every company they could lay their hands on.

Google came up with a better desktop search than MS (on MS's own OS too!) so I'd call that inovation. And their mapping is innovative, and ... anyway you get the point. You know, if Google never does another innovative thing, it still has one up non MS with the best search technology which they didn't buy or steal.

Of course they're spending up big, it worked for MS it can work for Google. But the difference is that they focus on being the best at what they do, and getting better even when they're the best and that is a remarkedly different approach - driven largely by the fact that they thad to take their marketshare through innovation not by being handed a golden spoon monopoly by IBM as MS was (twice).
Posted by gpenglase (87 comments )
Link Flag
And MS has all this money laying around...
.... after paying fines and buying off plaintiffs, and they AREN'T
shopping like they have daddy's credit card? And MS didn't have
the first word processor, and it's self-serve OS design is obvious
to all.
The OS is not bad, once they get the bugs worked out (where
they can), except if your software idea just was innovated into
that OS.

Everyone adapts, everyone 'borrows'. ideas do occur
simultaneously, and what counts in the end is whether or not the
OS and software does what the user wants. And that depends
on what the user expects.

Expectations can vary.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
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