As a write this in Writely.com (which I’ve used since last November), the “Web. 2.0” word processor served from the Internet to your browser, its developer Upstartle is in the process of being acquired by Google.
That’s good news. And yes, of course Writely.com is part of a concerted effort to offer an online alternative to Microsoft Office, as Dion Hinchcliffe points out in ZDNet’s Enterprise Web 2.0 blog:
The bigger news comes from reading between the lines. This acquisition is essentially positive affirmation that Google is indeed planning to directly go after Microsoft’s traditional office productivity product lines, which are also Microsoft’s most profitable.
Om Malik goes into more detail about Google’s efforts to compete head-on with Microsoft Office in “Google, Writely in Talks?“:
So you all know that Google’s got designs for a G:Drive and doing an end run around Microsoft? Now what if you can simply store and save data on that drive, but that’s not clearly as much fun. What if you could write a document in a browser, much like you write on Microsoft Word, but then save it directly to the G:Drive? That would increase the utility of G:Drive tremendously… Now buying Writely is in line with Google thinking of using browser for everything. I mean an online word processor, and online excel spread sheet make a lot more sense than making people switch to OpenOffice.
Google already supports OpenOffice.org, but I can see how Writely.com could be positioned as a simple, straightforward alternative that has most of the necessary characteristics of Word. Writely.com’s big advantage, besides offering a basic free service that works with most browsers on any computer, is that it makes collaboration on documents a lot easier than ever before. It nicely serves as a simple document management system for a collaborative workgroup — with no incompatible file formats getting in the way.
Alternatives are popping out of the woodwork, thanks in part to AJAX technologies coming to a browser near you.