Google Buys Collaboration Tool For Microsoft Office

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Google has made an aggressive move into the cloud-based productivity arena with its acquisition of online collaboration tool DocVerse

Google announced its acquisition of DocVerse, which allows groups to collaborate online on Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, on 5 March. The purchase gives Google another competitive angle as it seeks to expand Google Docs, its online productivity suite, in both the consumer and business segments.

“For the many people who use desktop software, like Microsoft Office, transitioning to the cloud was a challenge,” DocVerse founders Shan Sinha and Alex DeNeui wrote on the DocVerse blog.

Web applications such as Google Apps and Office “do not play well together,” Sinha and DeNeui wrote. “Most times, teams choose one product or the other. Google’s acquisition of DocVerse represents a first step [toward solving] these problems.” At the heart of DocVerse’s functionality is its ability to allow real-time sharing and simultaneous editing of PowerPoint, Excel and Word documents.

“We recognise that many people are still accustomed to desktop software,” Jonathan Rochelle, group product manager for the Google Apps team, wrote on the Google Enterprise blog. “So as we continue to improve Google Docs and Google Sites as rich collaboration tools, we’re also making it easier for people to transition to the cloud and interoperate with desktop applications like Microsoft Office.”

Rochelle added: “DocVerse is a small, nimble team of talented developers who share our vision, and they’ve enabled true collaboration right within Microsoft Office.”

In the interim, Google has suspended new DocVerse signups, although current users will be able to continue operating as usual. The Wall Street Journal cited a source as saying Google acquired DocVerse for about $25 million (£16.5m).

Google and Microsoft have been competing ever more fiercely in the cloud space. Responding to the challenge presented by Google Apps, Microsoft is planning to make a portion of its upcoming Office 2010 a free cloud-based productivity platform. Windows Live subscribers will be able to access stripped-down online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote; however, users wanting the full scope of Office 2010 features will still need to buy the desktop-based version.

Microsoft is also offering a mobile version of Office for its Windows Mobile 6.5 smartphone operating system, as well as rival Nokia’s Symbian OS.

Google has announced plans for a dedicated federal cloud computing system sometime in 2010, a move that likely encouraged Microsoft’s drive to produce Business Productivity Online Suite Federal, a services cloud unveiled on 24 February that will operate within a rigorous security protocol.

As competition between the two companies heats up, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced during a March 4 speech at the University of Washington that his company’s inspiration for new products and services will henceforth start “with the cloud.”

“This is the bet for our company,” Ballmer said. “We’re all in.”

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