Google delivered the latest salvo in its battle to wrest control from Microsoft over office productivity with its purchase of DocVerse, a Microsoft Office collaboration startup. The Wall Street Journal reported the purchase price was $25 million.
DocVerse was founded in 2007 by former Microsoft executives Shan Sinha and Alex DeNeui. The first product is a plug-in for Microsoft Office that allows users of the desktop software to collaborate on Office documents.
"DocVerse offers the first-ever product to truly enable real-time sharing and editing of Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel files. Its key advantage is that it does not require you to learn a new way to work by seamlessly plugging into Microsoft Office," the company says on its web site.
Announcing the purchase on a company blog, Jonathan Rochelle, group product manager for the Google Apps team, praised DocVerse as a "small, nimble team of talented developers who share our vision, and they've enabled true collaboration right within Microsoft Office. With DocVerse, people can begin to experience some of the benefits of web-based collaboration using the traditional Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint desktop applications."
"Google Apps have been about collaboration, but this will make it easier for people who work within Microsoft Outlook and Office to adopt Google Docs," said Greg Sterling, principal analyst with Sterling Market Research.
In their blog announcement, Sinha and DeNeui said they started the company at a time when it was becoming clear that a new paradigm for productivity apps was emerging. "The world started moving toward easy-to-use web applications, like Google Docs & Apps, offering a new way to work with all kinds of benefits," they said. "However, for the many people who use desktop software, like Microsoft Office, transitioning to the cloud was a challenge."
Microsoft's strategy has been Windows Live Workspace -- a way to offer online access and collaboration tools, but which keeps users firmly in Microsoft's sphere. The software giant did not offer any way to plug Office into Google's Docs and Apps offerings, and uploading Office files to Google meant stripping out formatting.
"Unfortunately, today individuals are still forced to make a choice between those two worlds," DocVerse's cofounders noted. "Even worse, teams who use both products find that Office and web applications do not play well together; most times, teams choose one product or the other."
By acquiring a Microsoft-facing startup, Google is taking a big step toward seducing Office users away from Windows Live, which has not been convincing as the future of online productivity. In 2009, Sinha said, "Office Live Workspace doesn't provide a feature set that comes close to what we offer, making it a poor user experience (and in our estimation the cause for its lack of uptake)."
Sinha and DeNeui praised Google as a company committed to choice.
"What impresses us the most about the Google team is that they all share the same philosophy -- giving people the tools to work the way they want," the cofounders said. "We fundamentally believe that Google is one of the best-positioned companies to truly disrupt the world of productivity software."
The first step will be to "combine DocVerse with Google Apps to create a bridge between Microsoft Office and Google Apps," they said.