Google Nets Web-Based Word Processor

Any doubts concerning whether Google is serious about challenging Microsoft’s
Office word processing software can be quelled.

The search giant this week purchased Silicon Valley startup Upstartle, which
makes Writely, a collaborative word processor that runs in a Web browser.

Writely lets several users edit documents online with whomever they choose
and then publish them in a blog.

Users can upload Word, OpenOffice, RTF, HTML or text documents and invite
others to share them by e-mail, something traditional,
client-based word processing formats like Office can’t offer.

Upstartle co-founder Claudia Carpenter said in a blog post that the No. 1 reason is to
expand its user base to millions once it is fully integrated with Google.

She also noted that some people didn’t feel comfortable
“trusting a tiny startup with their documents … and we’re no longer a tiny

Carpenter said Google will offer Writely free as a basic service, but will
also provide a subscription-based offering with bonus features. Google will
also be charging license fees to corporations and partners.

Since the Writely beta launched in August, thousands of people have
registered through word of mouth and blog, said Jen Mazzon, in a blog post
on Google’s Thursday.

“Everyone told us it was crazy to try and give people a way to access their
documents from anywhere — not to mention share documents instantly, or
collaborate online within their browsers,” said Mazzon, who became
Upstartle’s vice president of marketing last fall. “But that’s exactly what
we did.”

To maintain the current quality level of experience, Mazzon said Writely is
not accepting new registrations until the Upstartle staff moves Writely to
Google’s software architecture.

Current Writely users will retain use of the beta and will be able to add a
limited number of collaborators.

Those interested can join the Writely waiting list to be notified when the application beta is open again.

Some industry experts think Google could seriously undercut Microsoft in the
word processing software market if it focuses enough time and resources on
the challenge.

Google partnered with OpenOffice supporter Sun Microsystems last year, fanning the flames
of speculation for Google’s direction versus Microsoft.

That fight could be uphill and steep: Microsoft is the heavyweight of
productivity software, thanks to Office. There are also doubts as to whether
the world is ready for Web-based word processing.

The Writely purchase, however small in the short term, is an example of how
Google is looking to diversify its revenue streams and grab a larger piece
of the pie for Web-based technologies.

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