Google's acquisition of Upstartle, the makers of Writely, the Web-based word processor, has interesting implications for government, especially in light of the battle royal over Massachussetts' attempt to standardize on the Open Document format. Taking for granted that documents with certain security levels would not be developed over the Internet, that still leaves a large number of docs that could quite efficiently be developed via Writely's online collaboration service.
Since both Writely and OpenOffice support OpenDoc, and since Google's new ownership of the collaborative app could give managers increased confidence that the service will not disappear, the move could help bolster certain governments' plans to standardize on ODF. Of course, there are privacy and security issues whenever Google is involved:
- Would Writely documents be open to subpoena? Presumably.
- Would Google index unpublished Writely docs? Upstartle posted a one-word answer on their user forums: "NO!"
- Does adding yet another document type to Google's wealth of knowledge about users make sense for users?
- On the other hand, might not it be more secure to depend on Google's security than on those government laptops that keep walking away?
Meanwhile Gary Edwards has posted a long and thoughtful post arguing that the acquisition is nothing less than "Pearl Harbor" for Microsoft.
Writely lives on the Internet, in the same space as Google information, enabling mankind to collaboratively work with Wiki and Blog information. The collaboration is both human and machine in that when someone logs into a Writely document space, they do so riding high on their computational machines. Okay, so now we have Writely able to bridge the traditional desktop productivity environment with the Wiki, Blog and eMail collaboration tools. Because of the space it occupies, Writely is also in flow of all that Google information and information organization services.
Writely is a masterpiece of an ODF AJAX engine, able to upload any OpenDocument file for collaborative work, publication, and/or distribution. Highly structured information in, highly structured collaborative information out. All of which is Internet ready.
The killer for Microsoft is that they now face an open stack of highly structured, Internet ready information services that with the flick of the download switch could easily stretch across the over 450 million desktops that make up the mighty Windows monopoly base, over every Linux, OSX, and Solaris desktop, up through Writely collaboration services, through the Google mash of services and information and out across the Open Internet, and back again.