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Google has the last word in Microsoft battle
Govindraj Ethiraj | November 28, 2006
A few months ago, I wrote about how Google was slowly but surely tightening its grip around Microsoft mainstay products like Outlook and Excel by serving similar products over the Internet, free. I quoted the example of Google Spreadsheets as a counter to Microsoft Excel.
The saga continues. And Microsoft, to the best of my knowledge, has barely responded. Recently, Google included word processing to its suite of products. The combined offering is called Google Docs & Spreadsheets.
In effect, this is the Internet version of Microsoft Office, minus Outlook. The difference being that the applications sits on a server somewhere in California, or is it Oregon?
The introduction of Google Docs marks another significant step in the way computing power and applications are being distributed to ordinary users like you and me.
Spreadsheets are used by many people but word processing is the most basic computing application used by millions around the world, almost since the dawn of personal computing. So, while it's a small IT innovation, it's a big message.
I signed up for www.writely.com, the company that originally created the word processing software, a few months ago. Later I learnt that Google had just bought over the company.
A few weeks ago, Google transformed the home page, putting its own colours and logos. Simultaneously, the password and username were integrated with the rest of the Google services, like Gmail, Calendar and so on.
Having your content and the application that drives it sitting on a remote server can have its disadvantages, particularly if you are not close to an Internet connection.
Though the creators seem to be mindful of this. Google Docs allows you to download files onto your PC with a click of a button, even as PDF files. So you can download your document whenever you access the Internet, work on it and upload again when reconnected.
Importantly, you can share the document and collaborate with others working on it. So you can jointly author a document with a remote partner. Traditional, desktop based word processing applications, open source (free) or otherwise, obviously do not permit this.
Most of the basic formatting, fonts, layout and style functions are incorporated in Google Docs, like any word processing software.
Additionally, you can insert links, tags and mail the document by clicking another button. There is lots more but you can find out for yourself by visiting either www.writely.com or http://docs.google.com/.
Will Microsoft offer Word free off its servers? I don't know. Its response to Google on most counts is delayed at best and non-existent at worst.Even today, you can't buy Microsoft Word as a standalone package. Not only do you have to pay for Word, you will have to pay for Outlook and Excel as well. The cheapest Indian version (home/education use) when I last checked was around Rs 7,500. Who do you think will have the last word.