What Google’s acquisition of Writely means Jason 10 Mar 2006

68 comments Latest by Gokcen Ogutcu

Google just bought a great product in Writely. Writely was one of the best executed products I’ve seen in a while. But what does the acquisition mean?

There’s plenty of talk about Google building up a full office suite. But I don’t think that’s what it’s about.

I think this is about Google building up half an office suite. Google knows that most people don’t need the full Microsoft Office collection. They don’t even need most of it. They don’t even need half of each product. They just need a few things (like creating a quick, simply formatted document and sharing it with someone). And it looks to me like Google wants to offer those few things. Google wants to build the “Just Enough Office” because that’s really want the people want.

Writely isn’t a full featured web-based word processor because most people don’t need a full featured web-based word processor. Gmail isn’t a full featured email program because most people don’t need a full featured email program. Will Google’s calendar be a full featured calendar replacement on par with Outlook? No. It doesn’t have to be. Most people don’t need a full featured Outlook-level calendar.

So my guess is that Google wants to put together a simple collection of tools that serve the 80%. Let Microsoft try to keep the last 20% happy. That’s a thankless, tireless job. Plus, 80% is bigger than 20% so might as well go after the larger market — especially when it’s easier to please.

I doubt we’ll ever see a feature-for-feature web-based Google reproduction of Microsoft Office. The 80% doesn’t need that. Google doesn’t seem to be in the business of giving people what they don’t need. Google products are generally small and focused and do a few things pretty well. That’s what most people need.

Writely seems like a great first step. Well done Google — and Writely.

68 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Observer 10 Mar 06

80% of the users use 20% of the features.

-> Less software rocks!

Anonymous Coward 10 Mar 06

oh no! it was a great app. but now i have to delete all my files. because goggle is evil and read all my documents to give me search suggestions!

Anonymous Coward 10 Mar 06

Great, another great app that’s going to get Googleified, uglified, and adified. I hope everyone sees what’s going on here. The building of the next big ass company that controls everything just like MS started to do in the 90s. Are people really cheering this?

Not a Steve 10 Mar 06

“So my guess is that Google wants to put together a simple collection of tools that serve the 80%. Let Microsoft try to keep the last 20% happy. That�s a thankless, tireless job. Plus, 80% is bigger than 20% so might as well go after the larger market especially when it�s easier to please.”

It’s a convenient spin to say, ‘let someone else go after the difficult-to-maintain 20%’ when that isn’t what’s happening here. When the products compete and the market settles, Microsoft will still have that 80%. You’ve mixed the definitions of feature sets and market share incorrectly in this paragraph. Regarding market share, the 20% houses better profit margins (Apple, BMW, the firm that I work for). These companies create tools for that 20%.

The paragraph I’ve quoted runs counter to most 37s advice, including most of this post. Is this an oversight or did I read this correctly?

Anonymous Coward 10 Mar 06

Steve you read that wrong. Jason is suggesting the 80% are the masses and that’s what Google can get because most people don’t need the extra 20% that MS offers. Google will offer 80% of the features for 80% of the people. MS will stretch to win over that last 20%.

John 10 Mar 06

37s people.

InDesignWeTrust bets that you are next:

JohnO 10 Mar 06

I wonder if you’ve read “In Search of Stupidity” and Joel Spolsky’s writings. Yes, there is the 80/20 rule, but I do believe that that 20% of the features used is different for each user (assuming a normal distribution). “In Search of Stupidity” claims that “lite” products don’t work b/c of the above rule. The product is missing one thing that each different person needs, thus it never gains ground. If this is true, then the half suite will never get off the ground. If the half suite does get off the ground, well then why do some “lite” products fail, while Google’s half office suceeds?

Matt Baron 10 Mar 06

Furthermore, I really don’t think the average web customers system can support the full office sweet. So many of these web apps that I try out these days are an absolute bear on my system. While, I might not always agree with the less features arguments, I do find them particularly applicable on the web. What’s wrong with a few page loads to keep the rest of my application snappy?

paul haine 10 Mar 06

[frantically writes down notes]

Eighty percent…*bigger than*…twenty percent…

This is good stuff, thanks.

Scott M 10 Mar 06

How is Microsoft Works doing these days..?

Corey 10 Mar 06

I was really confused about the whole 80/20 thing until this line…
“Plus, 80% is bigger than 20%”
Thanks for that deep insight into number theory Jason.

George 10 Mar 06

I think everybody fighting on the Office Suite battlefield will be having hard time soon after Microsoft launches its Office 2007. That version has a killer UI and is making its huge set of features easily reachable and very usable by most of the folks. It offers more but it still looks (and works) like very simple app.

That’s why I think that Microsoft will win this battle as it will be able to satisfy nearly everybody.

Mo 10 Mar 06

Wow, what a straw man the critics of this post created, well we can’t refute the overall content of this post so we will focus on some throwaway line “Plus, 80% is bigger than 20%..”. Well done, commenters at SvN.

Darre. 10 Mar 06

“So my guess is that Google wants to put together a simple collection of tools that serve the 80%. Let Microsoft try to keep the last 20% happy. “

That would be great for all, actually. IMHO, when MS fails, it’s because it is trying to accomodate that 80%. MS word tries to accomodate every conceivable use for a word processor, rather than focusing on core uses. Windows tries to accomodate every computer user on the planet.

MS’s great products…MsSQL, Flight Simulator, XBox, Office (the OSX versioN) etc are great because they have defined a specific audience and have really targetted it.

Alas, I’m not sure if Google has it in them yet to appeal to that 80%. I like google. I think their products are good under the hood, but they really haven’t figured out UI design yet. Yahoo is doing great in that regard. There’s all this buzz of the new Google Calendar, but all I can responsd with is “hasn’t anyone else discovered the absolutely great (and free) yahoo calendar product yet?”

Eric 10 Mar 06

What I have always found most offensive about Office is that it basically becomes a $200 tax per system on working with any business. Google is not trying to kill office, just interoperate with those users dumb enough to send Memo’s as .doc attachments. Soon, hopefully, I will be able to read and respond to those emails with .doc files. There is also that whole _not everyone is running a computer with windows and office_ issue that this will probably solve.

Google is not trying to usurp the Office market, they are just providing the tools necessary for business communication.

Danno 10 Mar 06

Heh, this reminds me of the Learning Perl book I once read:

“This book covers the 20% of the stuff you’ll need to do 80% of the time.”

rob 10 Mar 06

i think that there is an even bigger social topic that hasn’t been discussed here - what is the impact of a full (or 80% or whatever) web based office suite on the life of those in the developing world? what does this mean for something like the $100 laptop project when the requirements for local SW storage and processing power start to rapidly drop off. Match Gmail with the rumored Gdrive as well as Writely and NumSum and all of a sudden you are starting to look at an interesting suite of products that can easily service that consumer. i’ve had a blog posting about using this as a strategy to service this market for a few months now and voila, it’s come to fruition right in front of me…..


Edmundo 10 Mar 06

Crazy… we were just checking out Writely two days ago! I was pretty impressed, specially since it was free. Who needs Word? :P

Jeff Hartman 10 Mar 06

George wrote:

That�s why I think that Microsoft will win this battle as it will be able to satisfy nearly everybody.

Is there really a battle going on? Microsoft has led in office apps forever (say it like Squints in Sandlot …..and the beast lived on forevvverrrrr).

As much as I dislike Office, it has such as stronghold. And as much as it sucks, Internet Explorer still dominates the market.

The problem is that people don’t know that there’s an alternative, they’re scared to make a switch, they don’t have the expertise to try the switch, they can’t because it’s not “their choice”, or heaven forbid, the like it.

brad 10 Mar 06

I actually agree that Office 2007 looks very promising.

However, what excites me about Writely is that it might be a solution for what I suspect is a common workflow issue: using Word to edit the text of websites. None of the sites I work on use a CMS. My clients want to see all edits to pages marked up with Word’s “track changes” feature so they can easily see what’s been changed. This means that we paste content from web pages into Word documents, turn on “track changes” and send the Word files to the clients. Then after the edits are approved, we send the Word file to the Web team who paste the text into Dreamweaver, losing all formatting and embedded links in the process, so the formatting and links have to be added in by hand. It’s a cumbersome, time consuming, and error-prone process.

Writely only works with HTML files (you can import them and export them from pretty much any word processor, but they are HTML). If those HTML files are clean, this might allow us and our clients to work directly in Writely, tracking our edits and then our Web team can just take the HTML from the Writely documents and plunk it into Dreamweaver. Wouldn’t that be nice!

FredS 10 Mar 06

Web-based office? Great if you always have an internet connection, not so great if you don’t.

Rich Ziade 10 Mar 06

You’re right that MS Office has way too many features and people use a small % of them. They key point though is WHICH 20%. If you’re a law firm, you’re heavily leaning on reviewing, red-lining etc. If you’re marketing, mail merge + faxing capabilities. A friend of mine writes end-user manuals for various appliance and electronics manufacturers. And so on.

I agree that most people need 80% of features. But I think that’s half the story. The question is really - which of those people will pay for which features and how much will they pay? Google bought a pathway to the casual user. A conversation still needs to be had about how much money lies with that casual 80%.

FredS 10 Mar 06

I’ve used Writely. It’s pretty clever - definitely well-executed. But I would never use it as my word processor.

mmm 10 Mar 06

I think you’re forgetting that the people that would use Writely are really your home users, 80% of which have a pirated copy of office. there is really no way that writely is going to make 80% of paying business users throw their copy of office away, just in the same way that neither yahoo mail or gmail has had any impact at all on office sales because they are not outlook

Joe Parker 10 Mar 06

So was Writely ‘built to flip’?

Nik Cubrilovic 10 Mar 06

“Plus, 80% is bigger than 20% so might as well go after the larger market”

Markets are measured by how much money is spent, not by how many people there are. More people doesn’t mean more money, and it certainly doesn’t mean more profit, the 3 are not linked. It’s why Intel forgot about the low-end CPU sector for a while, it takes up much of production and they don’t make enough off of each unit. Instead they dedicated themselves to top-end CPU’s where they could make a lot more because of the type of customer being targeted. The only reason why they went back into the bottom-end shit profit mass market sector with the celeron is because they realised that AMD or Cyrix would start ‘eating up’ into their markets if they didn’t put an end to them. A lot of effort to protect your position.

Same thing here, Microsoft won’t just let Google take away the bottom end of the market - they will protect it. They can even do it by giving away an office ‘lite’. The only reason it hasn’t happen yet is because they don’t have to do it, they are too busy enjoying the worlds most profitable software product.

Dean Edwards 10 Mar 06

I think you are on the money with your appraisal of this acquisition. Now quick, someone write a lightweight spreadsheet…

brad 10 Mar 06

You�re right that MS Office has way too many features and people use a small % of them. They key point though is WHICH 20%.

Another issue is that people don’t always know ahead of time which features they are likely to need. This is why most people don’t mind buying bloated products. There are a lot of features in Word that I never or hardly ever use, but at the same time it helps knowing that those features are there on the rare occasions that I do need them. I think one reason why people are hesitant to switch to a leaner product is that they worry that at some point they will need a feature that isn’t available. This happened to me with ClarisWorks (now AppleWorks)…I used it for years and depended on it, but then started working with clients who required features like “track changes” and other things that AppleWorks couldn’t do.

Drew McChesney 10 Mar 06

It’s obvious Microsoft is doing something right, no matter how bloated or ugly their UI is. Google isn’t going to topple Office with another Office (even web-based), and I really don’t think that’s their goal. The idea of the 80/20 rule, both the idealistic side, and the realistic side, has valid points, but here it’s being considered in a product vs. product debate.

Google is playing a completely different game which could have significant cultural impacts; moving the desktop to the web. Right now, these purchases, rollouts, and strategies are a part of a movement that is in its infancy. Many of these new services and products will flop, miserably, and I think Google understands this very well. However, and I don’t think I’m alone, I believe Google has the resources, the talent, and the track record to pull something this ambitious off.

Google’s threat to Microsoft isn’t just creating superior products; it’s Google’s ability to change the paradigm in which those products are made, distributed, and used.

MH 10 Mar 06

>…after Microsoft launches its Office 2007. That version has a killer UI

If you read Microsoft’s own rationalizations of the new Office UI, it’s basically: “There are so many danged features, we had to find some way to expose (shoehorn) more of them in the UI”

I’m a bit underwhelmed. I’ve been on projects like this before:

Manager: OK, we need to RADICALLY improve the UI of our mamoth, feature-packed, flagship product.

Designer: Great, we’ll need to change this part so that we can—

Manager: Oh, no. You can’t change anything. We don’t want to confuse existing users.

Designer: But you can’t improve something without—

Manager: Oh, and make sure all the features are accessible from everywhere.

Designer: But that’s—

Manager: And give the user more workspace.

Designer: Uh…

Manager: You have eight weeks.

Darrel 10 Mar 06

MH…maybe MS will bundle 30” wide screen monitors with each purchase of Office ‘07? ;o)

pwb 10 Mar 06

I’m not really clear on this whole “Office on the Web” thing. I can understand how Office will take advantage of the network and that web-based text/html editors will continue to get better. But doing all my Office stuff on the web just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Fuseaux Horaires 10 Mar 06

*sigh* Google Write (or whatever they’ll call it) isn’t going to take any market share from MS Word. For starters, it’s a web app. I have to type and edit large Word documents all the time at work. Even if it’s all ajax/dhtml or whatever, it will never have the sort of feel you need for documents you spend hours, perhaps days, even weeks, working on.
Web calendars might beat Outlook some day. Web email might beat Outlook and other desktop email clients some day. But not wordprocessing.

Phil 10 Mar 06

I disagree. MS still serves and leads the ‘office’ space, and will continue to do so…

Jens Alfke 10 Mar 06

I’m not sure that Office is the correct part of the elephant to be groping (metaphorically). I see this as Google acquiring some well-executed Writeable Web technology. That’s useful for so much more than just the traditional word-processor market.

People want to communicate online, they do so mainly in writing but they want rich[er] text and WYSIWYG. Plain-.txt and markup languages are for geeks like us — wikis have to get beyond that in order to take off.

What I’m disappointed by is that Google chose a service that doesn’t support Safari. Their FAQ makes excuses about Safari not supporting designmode/contenteditable — it does support those, though it’s notoriously buggy, but other people have gotten it to work.

novak 10 Mar 06

for me the only killer app from google is picasa. everything else has some sort of equivalent.
and if you take aclose look at Picasa, you’ll get the list f google’s flaws (areas for improvement):
it is offered for PC only.
it hasn’t been updated in a while.
it doesn’t talk to other Google application.
look and feel (ui and ue) is completely different than from any other Google’s app.
It is not web app. It doesn’t even have the great web photo sharing/blogging app like flickr to upload stuff too. (hello.com is a laugh and blogger is frozen in time)

Henk Kleynhans 10 Mar 06

I agree with JohnO, someone might offer only 20% of available features, which is what 80% of users need, but it’s choosing which 20% of features is needed the most.

Writely is perfect for me, but it’s not integrated with Basecamp. Writeboards are much better, but you can’t see what you are editing, and for the life of me I can’t convince non-techie folks to edit a document, add tags and then save it.

It’s just not intuitive.

Excuses from 37signals vary: 1. Safari can’t handle it, 2. It’s just a simple Text Editor (not quite how it’s advertised) 3. 80% of users don’t need it etc.

Question 1: How many people using Writely today tried out Writeboards before and went for the latter? (my hand is raised)

Question 2: How many people using Writely today would go back to Writeboards if it had WYSIWYG with very basic tags? (my hand is raised again)

Sorry Jason, I know you’ve repeatedly told me you’re not going WYSIWYG, but I’m going to repeatedly ask for it.

And once you’ve done it, you’ll be extremely glad!

Now, who’s with me!!??

Marcus 10 Mar 06

WordPad has all of the features those magical 80% of people use in a word processor and that comes as part of Windows. It’s even simpler than Writely and easier for the average joe to get their head around.

I don’t think Microsoft will have to scramble to keep the 20% happy: with Notepad, Wordpad, Works and Office they seem to have just about everyone covered. You can usually find three of those on any given Windows machine.

There’s got to be something more to Writely than covering the basic features people normally use: they have to cover features that people will normally use. Perhaps sharing and collaboration are the killer features.

Jason Lemkin 10 Mar 06

I am a Writely user and fan but see its real value in on-line collaboration — not as an alternative to Word. As a collaborative document tool, Writely shines as a MS Word complement and part-time pinch hitter when you want to share Word docs with folks without Word or a MS Word viewer.

But I wonder if this deal is really such a threat to, or any threat at all to, Microsoft Word & Office. First, Microsoft almost gives away Word. HP and Dell pack in MS Works (which includes Word) & WordPerfect (which can read Word and sort of write Word) with a ton of its PCs. And for viewing, MS Word Viewer is free. Second, anyone who works with Word attachments in e-mail will want some way to open those documents easily and in may cases then easily edit them. It will be a while before any 100% web-based product makes this work particularly well. It’s easy to upload from Word to Writely for example (which makes it great for collaboration), but that’s not quite the same as clicking on an attachment and bringing up the document.

MH 10 Mar 06

>Sorry Jason, I know you�ve repeatedly told me you�re not going WYSIWYG, but I�m going to repeatedly ask for it.

I thought I’d read here somewhere that they were going WYSIWYG once it worked in Safari…

MH 10 Mar 06

Yeah, here it is:

“JF 05 Oct 05
Until there�s WYSIWYG that is truly cross-browser/platform, we�re staying away.”

That doesn’t seem to be a resounding “never.”

Tom F 10 Mar 06


I think you are right. And this isn’t even about who is better, Microsoft or Google. Google doesn’t even need the enterprise productivity application market. They need to expand the ways they can collect your information and present advertising to the you. This is not even remotely like Wordperfect vs. Microsoft. It’s about Google giving a higher percentage of people in the world a way to store, search and use information. It’s not a head to head office suite battle. Is it a threat to Microsoft. Yes, but not in the way a lot of people think.


Nick D 10 Mar 06

37Signals will never get acquired. It goes against one of their principals: Think big, act (be) small. If they are, acquired, this core value goes away, and then they are worthless. I know that have been approached several times about being acquired. It must be great to say “no thanks,” and know that there is no value in being acquired.

Vishen 10 Mar 06

I used to work for Microsoft and was a loyal user - but since finding writely, Office makes me cringe. I’ve completely stopped using office at this stage. Writely has replaced Word and also functions as my To Do List and startpage for the internet. And tracker.jotspot.com has replacec excel for me. Microsoft products are so cumbersome, that I delight in finding replacement for them.

Javier Cabrera (ClearYourMind) 10 Mar 06

It looks like Google made a right choice between all office-like products! writely is the best out there and they surely deserve it; they are humble and good people, that’s something you can immediately tell, so cheers for them!

About the Google being evil idea I don’t believe on that, but I ask only one question about Google and one question alone:

Why, having an entire building full of excellent staff they are so desperate buying outside small companies?

That’s something that keeps me up awake by nights. They have plenty personal or room to innovate, but they aren’t doing it at all; they are just buying innovations. Being small is more productive than being big is becoming true; but anyway… they are buying apps all over the place. The last six months what did they did with their time, staff and money? oh yeah, they integrated Gtalk and … bought MeasureMap and Writely?

That’s the strategy? Buying web apps for 10+ million dollars? wow, the guy that draw that strategy must be a genius!

Don’t get me wrong, good for MeasureMap and Writely, but I’m just confused by Google. Just curious, their apps are cool enough.

Javier Cabrera
PS. Remember, Microsoft said that in six months they will be taking over the world and beating Google (out off business boys, sorry) so; in Six months, when Google has bought two more web apps, we will see how Microsoft react.
Oh may! those strategies! It’s so much fun! It’s like seeing two gods playing a super chess game! so much strategy going on, so complex! so complex!

Jason Grunstra 10 Mar 06

It’s interesting that Writely is a .NET application (read: built on a Microsoft platform), and Google still purchased them.

Not only that but the Writely page now says “We have closed off new registrations until we move Writely to Google’s systems.”

Does that mean it will run on IIS machines inside the Googleplex?

John Turner 10 Mar 06

The reason Office is firmly entrenched for a very long time has nothing to do with Office, or even Word. The reason is very simple: scheduling meetings via Outlook, which requires Exchange. Until someone convinces corporations that they can reproduce this functionality with some other product, AND offer to convert said businesses from Outlook and Exchange for free, nothing will supplant Office in the business world.

There’s simply too much momentum with Exchange and Outlook, and every client I’ve ever encountered that even considered using something other than Office immediately ran into the “but how will we schedule meetings without Outlook?” and “what will we do with all of the MCSEs we’ve hired?” roadblocks.

I think all of the web-based application activity is great, and I applaud companies like 37signals and meebo and all the rest that are shaking things up. However, in my opinion these technologies only benefit businesses that are starting from scratch, not legacy businesses. Until there is more support for startups and entrepeneurs in general outside of San Francisco and Boston, web-based application companies will continue to just be “cool things”.

pwb 10 Mar 06

Why, having an entire building full of excellent staff they are so desperate buying outside small companies?/em>

You don’t get it.

They acquire 1) a nice, shipped product, 2) a block of users and 3) a talented team. For a few thousand shares.

Gordon 10 Mar 06

I’m happy as long as I have CHOICE. Use a Google app, a Microsoft app, or a 37signals app… I care only that the app meets MY specific and unique needs.

I disagree the web apps are just ‘cool things’. I use Side Job Track and it’s been a HUGE boon for me, same as Ta-Da lists and Basecamp. HipCal or 30Boxes is my next decision, but won’t replace Outlook as I like to have ONE calendar for all my work stuff (employment and sidejob)… see.. MY needs.

Ohh and here’s a thought. Why don’t you guys provide nice PNG icons for your apps so we can treat them like our client apps and have shortcuts on our desktop or in our docks? (yes I’ve asked this before). My graphic skills ain’t up to it ya see…

anonymous coward 10 Mar 06

Office “light” products are all over the place and always have been, and in every light weight you could want: anybody notice Microsoft Works is still around (and plenty more)? Microsoft Office is only as big as it is in order to have the one something that every single user wants, it’s “everything for everybody”.

Google is all about ‘distributed’ computing.

Kevin Burton 10 Mar 06

You’re totally right. The sad thing is that this has been obvious for years now yet no one has decided to take microsoft on directly.

The majority of Microsoft’s revenues come directly from office so hopefully this will be a kick in the teeth for them.

Saul Weiner 10 Mar 06

I figure it’s not one way or the other. They’ll probably do some housekeeping at writely and figure out how they can beef it up thereafter.

Octavio 10 Mar 06

With Offcie and Windows, Microsoft’s big money comes from industry, not individual users. I think individual users were about 10% of total software sales, last time I checked. The real battlefield is industry and government.

The web is another story. This should be good.

chu 10 Mar 06

I just discovered a very nice spreadsheet app at irows.com - I think it’s to excel as writely is to word.

Edward 10 Mar 06

I think most NON-geek folks just want a program they can rely on, they don’t give a hoot about whos dominating the market so long as the product works. They don’t care about the details, whats more they don’t want to relearn the software (or the possibility of such), office suite on their computer is something they have and is in their control, they dont have to be online and what they write stays on their hard drive, for confidential docs this is important.

Perhaps only the combo of both OpenOffice and writely can start to hurt MS Office’s dominance, I don’t think writely alone can do it.

RyanA 11 Mar 06

Jason Grunstra said: “It�s interesting that Writely is a .NET application (read: built on a Microsoft platform), and Google still purchased them.”

I don’t think the .NET backend is a big deal. The real crux of an application like writely is the code that runs on the client, and that type of code is a lot more difficult to write.

It don’t think Google would have much trouble swapping out .NET with whatever backend they prefer.

Jason Grunstra 11 Mar 06

RyanA said: “It don�t think Google would have much trouble swapping out .NET with whatever backend they prefer.”

So if Google with all its talented engineers were just going to swap out the back end, why bother with the purchase in the first place??

Seems like a waste of money, no?

JP 11 Mar 06

“So was Writely �built to flip�?”

Yes, clearly. It’s just not convenient in this case for Jason to point that out, because he actually likes the product. Building to flip is bad, except of course when it’s not.

Wulff 11 Mar 06

A quick note on: Google vs. Microsoft

I think Microsoft is learning. Evolving. And I’m looking forward to Vista and the new office suite to see just how far. And with MSN Adcenter set to fully launch in only a few months - which is at least as powerfull as AdWords - then also Google will experience some pressure to their core business.

BTW MSN Adcenter is simpler, more ajax’ed, better looking/designed than Google Adwords. A first small evidence that MS is actually (perhaps) getting there.

Andrew 11 Mar 06

Google wants to hire smart people and get their work; some smart people are unavailable for hire because they are working on their startup and haven’t “proven” themselves yet. I think acquiring successful startups might be one way for them to get hold of smart people and their work.

I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of working with “regular folks” outside the IT world for a while now. Most of them, if they even have computers at home, want to be able to maybe write up their resume or a one page letter. They are happy to pirate Office for this, or even just use their friend’s computers. For excel, all they want to do is write up short lists of groceries, or track expenses at tax time, or whatever.

If Google provided these services they could use them from anywhere on the web - friends house, work, net cafe - and not have to carry around their data on a disk. These people already use MSN/yahoo/google for their email, its only a short step further to use them for EVERYTHING.

- Andrew

Ashish 11 Mar 06

37 sig, as usual, I totally disagree with your analysis of Google�s acquisition of Writely.

It means nothing. . In My humble opinion, this would be a forgotten feature/service in next 3 years.

Lets use some common sense, how hard it would be for Microsoft to launch the similar service? Now with 99% desktop market share, who do you think has an upper hand to deploy/capture “web based document sharing services”? Oh, I am sorry, I forgot, Google’s office is simple and small and that�s huge competitive advantage for Google!!!

Craig Randall 12 Mar 06

It is only a matter of time for google to fall down the Yahoo route of offering a million and one services. But they can afford to do so.

Ben 12 Mar 06

Yes, I agree. I find it amazing that Google is starting/offering/hyping so many different services. If they can pull it off, great! If they can’t it will be quite embarrassing in a few years. Regardless, I just hope we’re not trading one monolith (Redmond) for another (Mountain View). Google does seem to know just about everything about me these days.

I applaud everything that 37 Signals is doing. Usability is everything.


Tim Almond 13 Mar 06

Good Post, Jason.

This is a big problem for Microsoft - that their complaints about OpenOffice.org being 10 years behind are falling on deaf ears. For many businesses, they are finding that OpenOffice.org Writer gives them everything they need, because they haven’t picked up on new features that were added since Office 97.

20 years from now, we have a rich UI experience, but that content and logic will be delivered just-in-time for most users. Where the netstation failed is not because it was a bad idea, it just got there before the infrastructure could support it.

Fine James 13 Mar 06

Why not just go back to Wordprose?

Gokcen Ogutcu 14 Mar 06

i don’t actually agree with the percentages, but it is for sure that writely will stole some ms customers; who only uses word for rich text formatting their to-do lists or use to track a few things… and there is no doubt that google will do their best to enhance writely, to make it more “real-world usable” and feature-rich.

this is the second biggest step after gmail. with gmail google changed the peoples look on email, and the way they use email. and writely (probably will be followed by a spreadsheet application) will change the typical computer owners look on managing documents (documents like shopping lists, to-do lists, basic financial docs etc.). soon a typical computer owner will not own a computer, but an internet enabled device.
so not microsoft but, desktop pc producers should reconsider their strategies.