Google and MSFT

My colleague Mike Boland and I were up in Redmond yesterday. We were there to discuss local and various trends in the markets we cover. At lunch there was some casual discussion about project Origami, which "launched" today. Here’s more information. And here’s a photo.

Getting the right form factor is one piece of the mobile-local search puzzle. We don’t really cover hardware but we watch the "space" because if there’s a device that offers a great user experience in mobile it may help local search on mobile devices take off. There’s all kinds of conflicting information about whether consumers want a single device that does everything or whether they’re happy with separate devices — e.g., phones for calling, other devices for e-mail/Web access.

It’s challenging for one device to do everything equally well (people have complained about the voice quality of some versions of the Treo for example). But as someone who has traveled quite a bit lately it would be great to have a single item that was a phone, could access e-mail and offered an "on the go" PC replacement option.

Meanwhile Google does buy online word processor Writely. Clearly it’s intended to be a Word alternative on the Web (and consistent with the larger GDrive discussion). Here’s an excerpt from the WSJ (sub. req’d) this morning:

The Internet search company said that it has bought closely held Upstartle LLC, whose Writely.com service lets users create, edit and share documents online. Terms weren’t disclosed. Upstartle, based in Portola Valley, Calif., has four employees and was founded in late 2004.

The acquisition is part of Google’s push into areas that compete with Microsoft. Google, of Mountain View, Calif., has used advertising revenue from Internet searches to support a host of free online services and software such as its Gmail e-mail service and Google Earth mapping software. Those services, in turn, are designed to attract more consumers onto its Web site and pull in more advertising.

To date, Google has played down speculation that it would extend that strategy to word processing and other services that compete with Microsoft’s core personal-computer software business. The Upstartle deal is a step in that direction.

The Writely service has a spell checker and other features found on standard word-processing software such as Microsoft’s Word, a part of the Office suite of programs installed on PCs. The difference is that Writely can be used by anyone with a Web browser, and it requires installation of no other software.

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