Google throws Microsoft the gauntlet

Google may have a market capitalisation of $115 billion and employ 5,680 people but it was confirmation that it had added a group of four new staff members that sent plenty of eyebrows skywards.

Its acquisition of the team at start-up Upstartle, home of the Writely software-as-a-service word processor, sent a clear signal that the company intends to compete head-to-head with Microsoft for more than just email accounts. Two-year old Upstartle launched a beta version of in August 2005; not only is the service free but the intention is to take it well beyond simple word processing.

As Jen Mazzon, one quarter of Upstartle, wrote in his blog: "Everyone told us it was crazy to try and give people a way to access their documents from anywhere – not to mention share documents instantly, or collaborate online within their browsers. But that’s exactly what we did." As well as document creation, Writely can convert and upload existing documents from Word, RTF, PDF and OpenDocument formats and let the users save them online or to their computer.

The company says it plans to keep the basic service free, with some extra features requiring a reasonable subscription fee. It will also be charging license fees to corporations and partners. In the meantime, the Writely is offline to new users – the surge of traffic following the announcement and the process of moving over to the Google systems means new registration is closed.

Perhaps reacting to that, Ovum analysts David Bradshaw and David Mitchell, suggest that Google lacks desktop office product expertise. Four people are unlikely to produce critical mass in a development team," they scoff. They suggest that the Google move might simply be designed to keep Microsoft honest and "looking over its shoulder – even if no one is there."

The other four-person start-up in play last month was Gauntlet Systems. Its newly released tool for tracking software revisions was snapped up by Borland as part of its transformation from a development tools vendor to a full application lifecycle management software company. The deal follows the February announcement that Borland was divesting itself of its traditional programming tools and concentrating on higher-end products designed for managing the development process.Gauntlet’s technology aims to ensure the quality of software code early in its lifecycle so future developers are not affected by flawed code. It monitors all changes to code and screens those against set quality standards, tracking projects against key indicators so it is delivered has a better chance of being on time and to requirements. As a measure of how high Borland rates that technology, it has appointed Gauntlet’s CEO Sam Pullara as its new chief architect.

At the other end of the scale, in terms of heritage at least, one of the pioneers of project management software, Artemis International, finally lost its independence. The 30-year old veteran was acquired by business services company Trilogy, which intends to roll the $27 million purchase into its Versata group. Versata sells an eponymous ‘business rules management system’ for automating the building and maintenance of enterprise applications.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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