One day after releasing a package of applications (users http://www.networkworld.com/news/2006/101006-google-education.html?brl) that hinted at how Google might offer collaboration services to corporate, the company announced that it was releasing an online word processing and spreadsheet application.
Google Docs & Spreadsheets is a combination of Google's Writely word processing service and Google Spreadsheet. Like many applications from Google, Docs & Spreadsheets is available as a beta.
Google focus with the service is to let users collaborate on documents and spreadsheets for consumers and corporate employees. The service will let users centrally store and access the files, transform them into many different formats and publish them to Web sites or blogs.
"I think these "Web 2.0" offerings are more complementary than competitive with traditional desktop applications," says Peter O'Kelly, an analyst with the Burton Group. "It's also somewhat surprising that Google hasn't yet introduced a wiki-based offering to complement its Blogger service, since wikis are very useful for Web-centric, content-based collaboration."
Google said in a press release it hopes to be complementary to other tools in the productivity-software space. Microsoft's Office is the dominant tool in that arena and is slated for a major upgrade early next year, including a host of integrated collaboration tools. Certainly Microsoft's tools have more features and functionality to support corporate needs, but Google is again mining a niche with its online services.
Google Docs & Spreadsheets lets users upload documents in formats including Word, OpenOffice, Rich Text Format, and HTML. Downloads support includes Word, PDF and other formats. The application includes a revision history and a roll back feature.
Google bought UpStartle (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2006/030906-google-writely.html?brl) and its Writely online word processing applications in March and suspended new memberships. The company brought the application back online in August.
On Tuesday, Google introduced Google Apps for Education (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2006/030906-google-writely.html?brl) , a collection of collaboration tools and an API set for backend integration.
The unique aspect of the education version is a set of APIs that let users tie the Google services to existing backend infrastructure such as directories and single sign-on platforms. The API set is a hint at what Google plans to offer corporate users when it introduces an enterprise edition of Google Apps before the end of the year.
The introduction of Google Docs & Spreadsheets may be another piece of Google's corporate puzzle, which also includes a premium version of online collaboration tools that are not advertising support and come with a service level agreement.