John Markoff reports in the NY Times that Google will release a web-based spreadsheet. Of course, this should in no way be taken as a sign that Google is assembling an online alternative to Office. That can't be. After all, as Markoff reports, Eric Schmidt said in a recent news conference that Google purchased Upstart, makers of the Writely word processor, simply to integrate better word processing capabilities into their online offerings.
As Bill Cosby used to say in his great Noah sketch, "Riiiiiiight..."
Time for the coy act to be put aside. Google now offers e-mail, calendaring, photo management and editing, note-taking, database, RSS aggregator, and as of tomorrow, spreadsheet tools. That looks remarkably like a productivity suite to me. All that's missing is the label. Dare I say it... Google Office. There! I said it.
C'mon guys. Release Writely as Google Write (or some other clever name although topping Google Spreadsheets will admittedly be tough) and be done with it. Look on the bright side. From a naming perspective, you're killing Microsoft. Their boldness in slapping Live on everything is exceeded only by the innovative idea to put the year before the product name (as in 2007 Microsoft Office system - with a small "s").
In all seriousness, it's welcome news that the spreadsheets can be collaboratively edited and Google Talk chat can be conducted during the editing. Slowly but surely, Google is beginning to deliver the integration between their services many have long been asking for.
UPDATE: Don Dodge has an interesting take on the announcement. He thinks it's OpenOffice and other OSS initiatives that Google is actually competing with.