For the longest time, Google has been extremely careful not to poke directly at Microsoft's core OS or office suite business. In fact, last year when all the silly rumors were out about how Google was going to team with Sun to offer up a web-based version of Open Office, Google said repeatedly that they didn't think it made much sense to just offer a clone of what Microsoft was doing. Back at CES when Google launched their Google Pack of free downloadable software, many people noticed the lack of Open Office -- suggesting, again, that they didn't want to tick off Microsoft directly. Perhaps the real answer was they were just looking for a better solution, one that fit with their view of the web-based world. Om Malik broke the story yesterday with the rumor, but now it's been confirmed that Google has purchased the online word processor Writely. It will be interesting to see what they do with it, but this does seem to fit with Google's past moves. Rather than just a word processor clone, Writely's advantage is in its collaborative tools, leveraging the benefits of being a web-based app. Google has always said they didn't want to just copy Microsoft, unless it was doing something in a different, more sensible way -- and Writely qualifies on that regard. It's interesting that their first move is to actually shut the system down for new users (existing accounts still work, as far as I can see), as they move the system over to Google's architecture. It will be worth watching just how long this takes, and if it will cause any problems. Still, Microsoft will likely view this as a much more direct attack -- especially coming so soon after Microsoft's new focus on its "Live" strategy. Bet you can't wait to see the response.
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