Expanding on its Writely purchase of this past March, Google is releasing a web-based spreadsheet program, giving a clear sign that it plans to develop an online office suite to compete with Microsoft Office. The program sounds very similar to what Writely offers, with simultaneous editing, in-document chat, automatic saving, which suggests it may be an extension of the Writely “platform”.
It is not known at this time whether Google is planning to purchase one of the existing web-based spreadsheet applications such as EditGrid or iRows, or whether the company plans to release their own version from scratch. Given Google’s history, it seems that the former option is probably the most likely. Although these applications are fairly simple to create—the company that created Writely had only four employees at the time of the Google purchase—it is still easier and faster to purchase an existing solution rather than rolling one’s own.
Ars is ignoring the obvious: Who ever said Writely was only developing a word processor? Perhaps Google found out Writely was also developing a spreadsheet and other office software, and realized that it could purchase the whole kit and kaboodle. Is it so hard to believe that Writely, which wanted someone to purchase them, had already started work on this spreadsheet, which made it too tempting for Google to pass up?
According to Elinor Mills, Google Spreadsheet will support the importing of XLS and CSV files, just like Writely. It requires a Google Account, and I’d say it is a safe bet that it will be another Google product that will close down due to heavy interest, so register early (sometime between 12 am and 4 am Eastern, tonight).
While Google could very well dominate the web-based Office space, and could easily become the number two to Microsoft Office, it is highly unlikely they will ever overtake Office. Excel is a hugely important piece of software for businesses, and no multi-million dollar corporation is going to run their payroll off a web-based solution. Google may very well steal the considerably smaller home user market from Microsoft Office, but businesses likely require far more.