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Google, Writely In Talks?

Update: Google has confirmed the purchase of Upstartle, the makers of Writely.

writelySo 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. Maybe that explains why Google is rumored to be in talks with Writely, a browser-based document processing application, for a possible acqusition.

Writely, is the first product of Upstartle, LLC. (More on them here.) Writely is one of the Business 2.0 Next Net 25 companies. The pending deal has been making the rounds in the Valley today. I picked up this very strong rumor from fairly reliable sources, when visiting the money corridor (aka Sand Hill Road) this morning. Now I am still waiting to hear from Google and Writely about the rumors, and will treat this chatter as just that, unless of course I hear otherwise from the two companies.

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. Anyway will update the story later when I hear from the two respective companies.

91 Responses to “Google, Writely In Talks?”

  1. Perhaps Google bought Writely not for the word processing UI, but for the underlying components. This might not be a sign of a bid to attack Office at all. There are plenty of things Writely does under the hood that Google could be very interested in. Word processing is just the top layer.

  2. Google can very easily address the offline problem — just run a web server locally, like they do for desktop search. The interface for the client app code would not need to change, and if a request fails from the online server, simply hit the local offline one. The local offline server would then basically “ping” the online one periodically until it was available again, push any changes up, then inform the client app that it should resume communicating with the online server.

    The biggest risk, of course, is you would essentially have writely’s server-side code on your client for the local server. So server source code is on the client. Assuming you use a compiled language, not a big deal — but most websites nowadays are written in some type of scripting language (python/php/ruby/perl/asp) or java/.net. Last I checked, Google was a big python fan, which means then lean towards scripting and dynamic languages. Call me crazy.

  3. for spreadsheets you might check out Numbler – and I agree with Andrew’s point that web apps exist for a different purpose. There are lots of customer needs that aren’t met by office software; some based on features, cost, or simplicity of use. A good example are tools from 37signals.

  4. If Google bought Writely, it would mostly be for the talaneted developers. Even though Google has shown it’s tech-independence with the .net-based Orkut, I would think it would prefer that these apps be on the less costly, infinitely flexible *nix platform.

  5. One last thing. The beauty of Office is that all the pieces are integrated and they all look integrated. Piecing together a bunch of small apps from here and there don’t make an office suite. They make a set of different applications.

  6. Luistxo wrote that Writely is overhyped among bloggers, but has little brand value – seems conflicting to me. But I digress…
    I have been using Writely for several months now and the effect it has had on how I handle documents is nothing short of a complete transformation. I only use Word now to open files from other people who don’t use tools like Writely, and I immediately copy and paste the contents of the Word file into a Writely file. After editing, I invite the other person to collaborate on my Writely file – this is my way of marketing Writely to others in a grass-roots, “web2.0” way.

    To the Google-Writely question, I love Writely as it is right now, both as a service I use daily, and as something that I see being constantly improved by its authors. I can also imagine that a relationship wth Google could have huge potential benefits, i.e. if they integrate Writely and Gmail so that attached documents in a Gmail message can be opened directly in Writely.

  7. Interesting. I’d be kind of surprised if Google didn’t just use If they want something lighter weight then they can easily just, well, put it on a diet, take out some features and icons, etc.

    Of course, as an instructor I’m prejudiced. ;>

    The equivalent for PowerPoint is obviously Impress which is much easier with this rev and looks much more like PowerPoint.

    I think the “everything online” metaphor is great–it’s true that some people will be scared but people who use Yahoo or GMail would immediately understand. And it would be an incredible benefit for people who travel a lot.

  8. Why does Google need to compete with Microsoft in the office software space? Why do we take this as given? Does Google need to compete with Adobe in the graphic design space too?

    Why does everyone feel like Google needs to do everything? That’s a sure fire way to lose focus.

    Google outta focus on search and a few related services. And they outta protect their advertising empire cash cow.

  9. Randhir Reddy

    I think it’s a smart move, irrespective of whether they buy Writley or not, they gotta get into the Hosted Office software business to take on Microsoft Head on, and play to their strength. For MSFT, this is attacking at their Star Business and give them some of their own medicine.
    If at all, there’s a co. which could compete against MSFT effectively, its Google. I thought it’s just a matter of time, before they announced something on this. The paradigm Shift in the software from Packaged to Hosted, is the future of software.
    Looking at CL2, its quality, intuitiveness, easy to use, Industry Standards, hard to replicate features. they’d do very well in the Office apps. Space.
    Even if they dont take over Writley, they already have word editors in their offering, like someone mentioned, they must’ve something in their stable, to introduce just before Microsoft releases its Office 12.
    Thanks Om, for the coverage.

  10. Om, great find. But I have a small question?

    “Do you think Google has to pour in a double digit million figure to acquire it instead take some time to build it on their own. Speaking about community, I think Zoho Writer as well as Writely stand on the same dias.”

    I find Writely as just an extension of Blogger edit tool. Adding colors to it would not take more time for a company like Google.

    Thanks for this “rumour”.

  11. Writely is fine, but I don’t see the benefit for Google to buy rather than build here. (a) Writely is a hyped name among 2.0 bloggers, but most people have no idea who or what they are, so there’s miniscule brand value; (b) both Gmail and Blogger already solve most of the technological hurdles, the biggest exception being MS .doc import/export; (c) does anyone think that Google needs Writely’s networked-application expertise?

    If anything I’d think they’d buy Writely just so that MS and Yahoo! can’t.

  12. Om,
    I don’t think this is a good idea for google and neither do i think they should would go for it.

    1. AJAX no matter what you say cannot scale up for such apps.
    2. Google has tie up with Sun for open office, it should be pushing for xforms , not a AJAX based writing doc (More here ) Open Document can natively support xForms.
    3. Mozilla is working on Xforms extension (they released 0.4 build recently) and I used it for a few complex forms. In the above link i mention how to use it.

    Lots of other reasons this is not gonna work well, like what is the revenue model ? I don’t want ads next to my sales reports. In case they are doing it, then it must be technology acquisitions for some good engineers.

    Besides handling browser crashes, network failures, offline editing capabilities are critical. So in case they are going to provide an online editor, its critical to provide offline too. This is where open office is needed. You can edit offline and sync online etc.
    I am sorry but writely, numsum etc are technology demonstration projects, they are not usable applications yet !! Look how long its taking Google to get a calendar out of the door ? Complex applications like office will take more effort. We might be looking at years here.

  13. Some thoughts about Windows Live and Office Live. MS may have invented and marketed those concepts, but Google is in better position to take the opportunities.

    “One harvests and another reap”

  14. If this does indeed become Google’s approach, I believe that it’s very smart. It’s sort of an end-around into Microsoft’s bread and butter market.

    Google may face some challenges though:

    -The general population is still unaware of all things Web 2.0 and are conditioned to use Microsoft Office; if for no other reason than just habit.

    -Microsoft Office documents are stored on local machines and not on Google’s servers. Convincing the masses that their documents will be safe (especially with all that has been going on lately) may be quite challenging—-Even if it’s FREE!