Writely Buy Hints at Google Office

Google on Thursday confirmed what many have been speculating since Monday: the search giant has purchased yet another Web 2.0 darling by the name of Writely. Writely serves as a Web based word processor with sharing and collaboration features. But does this really mean Google Office is near?

Writely was launched into beta in August 2005 by start Upstartle. The service quickly gained attention for its ability to bring advanced editing features directly into the Web browser through the use of advanced scripting and AJAX.

Features of the service include the ability for multiple people to work on a document in real time, secure storage that saves a document every 10 seconds, and an easy to use interface that mimics a desktop client without the hassle of a download.

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Writely's developers commented on the Google purchase in a blog posting Thursday, promising to keep the service reliable and secure. There are no plans to add Google advertising to the site, the team says.

"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. But this will take time - our team isn't going to grow exponentially overnight - so please don't hound us with feature requests any more than you have been already!"

The acquisition has already sparked talk of Google planning to build a Web-based office suite. In addition, screenshots of a calendar service, currently in closed testing at Google, surfaced earlier this week.

"I've been blogging for a long time that Google will have an office suite by the end of 2006, and today they added a word processor to their email and calendar offerings," commented AOL executive Jason Calacanis. "After the Office-killer is completed they will launch the OS."

Venture capitalist Michael Arrington seemed to agree with that assessment in a posting to the TechCrunch Web log.

"This signals two things: a confirmation of Google's desire to hit Microsoft hard and attack their largest revenue product, and that they will do this at least partially through acquisition rather than building the office suite entirely in-house," he commented. "When, if ever, will Microsoft respond with their own online versions of the Office products?"

While Writely is transitioning to Google's servers the company is not accepting any new registrations. However, users can sign up to be notified when the Writely beta becomes publicly available once again.

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