June 9, 2006 1:43 PM PDT

This week in software wars

While Microsoft has its eyes on Vista, Google is opening up a new front in its battle for a greater piece of the software titan's territory.

In an apparent challenge to Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet dominance, Google launched a Web-based spreadsheet program that will allow people to view and simultaneously edit data while conducting an "in-document" chat. Google Spreadsheets, which is part of Google Labs, supports the import and export of documents in the .xls format used in Excel and the .csv (comma-separated values) format.

The launch is further proof that the company is eyeing Microsoft's Office stronghold, but should Microsoft really be worried?

In March, Google acquired Writely, a collaborative word processor that runs in a browser. The company hasn't made clear its plans for that product, and it remains in the beta stage of testing. Still, as the pieces come together, there's little doubt that Google is quietly providing Web-based versions of the Office applications upon which Microsoft has built an empire.

Although Microsoft does not have a hosted or Web-based version of Excel yet, third parties already provide the online sharing capability that Google is touting with its Spreadsheets, Microsoft noted.

The move perplexed many CNET News.com readers in the TalkBack forum.

"Who uses spreadsheets? People in business," wrote one reader to the forum. "No enterprise will allow data--especially financial data--to be hosted on the servers of a company they don't have a contractual relationship with."

Meanwhile, after months of limited testing, Microsoft made a beta version of Windows Vista publicly available for download. The company kicked off what it called its "Customer Preview Program," a testing period in which the software maker hopes that millions of tech enthusiasts will kick the tires on the new operating system.

The software maker is still cautioning that Vista is not ready for the average consumer, pitching CPP as suited for developers and tech workers, as well as hard-core enthusiasts who don't mind a few bugs and have a spare machine for testing. Microsoft also recommends that those interested in CPP run its recently released adviser tool, which helps detect how Vista-ready a PC is.

However, the company dropped a feature from Vista that would have allowed people running the new operating system to keep data synchronized among multiple PCs. The software maker said quality concerns were behind the decision to drop the feature, which allowed people to keep files up-to-date across multiple Vista machines.

The decision to drop the synchronization software is all part of the company's normal beta testing, Microsoft said, but it added that it doesn't expect a lot of changes to Vista's feature set between now and the final release.

See more CNET content tagged:
spreadsheet, software company, Google Inc., reader, Microsoft Windows Vista

3 comments

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Vista XP
They have dropped most of the features that really had me eyeing the new OS and are adding a lot of DRM to make it harder to do what I want with MY content. Seems to me this will equal windows95 to Millenium. Just a pretty interface (if your PC can handle the requirements)and new DRM to discourage your use of digital mediums. I Think I'll stick with a dual boot XP, Unbuntu configuration thank you very much.
Posted by trashmem (13 comments )
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vista and google spreadsheets
I played around with vista beta 2 for a few hours. Most of that time was trying to get drivers to install for my video and network card. I never could get the video card driver to work. My first impressions weren't very good. It's very annoying when vista asks you if you are sure you want to do EVERYTHING you try to do. Another problem was vista only recognizing 256mb of ram instead of the 512mb in my laptop. According to the memory/cpu usage widget my memory usage hovered around 80% eevn when I wasn't doing anything. At this point not very impressed.

I was much more impressed with the google spreadsheet. The chat feature with the real time updates while multiple people are modifying the document is nice. I don't think it will be replacing excel but it has its place.

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Steve - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://tail-f.net/" target="_newWindow">http://tail-f.net/</a>
Posted by YourM0m (12 comments )
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Vista kills
I tried windows xp and i must say that i did not like the thing very much. It hogged to much of my system resources and therefore my experience with it was quite dissapointing. I think im going to stay with suse and xp dual boot. might even get rid of xp once microsft decides to stop supporting it.
Posted by vamega (17 comments )
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