Google's acquisition of collaboration software startup DocVerse for a reported $25 million March 5 validates the market for applications that bridge the gap between the Google Apps cloud computing suite and the on-premises Microsoft Office suite.
DocVerse makes a plug-in that lets users group-edit Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel and Word documents, which are created offline and stored locally on users' desktops, and render those changes online in the cloud. ReadWriteWeb explained the process best:
""The plug-in opens a widget in the document sidebar that includes a unique link. Any time a user makes an update to a Microsoft document, the plug-in syncs the Web page that is associated with the document. Every modification gets synced. When multiple people work on a document, the updates are made through the plug-in and versions are stored online.""
Google will stitch this technology into Google Apps, appealing to customers who want to use Google Apps as their core collaboration suite, but still use the documents they created in Apps offline in Office without losing any of the data.
"Our first step will be to combine DocVerse with Google Apps to create a bridge between Microsoft Office and Google Apps," DocVerse co-founders Shan Sinha and Alex DeNeui wrote in a blog post.
Google will also no doubt pick the brains of Sinha and DeNeui, who know the ins and outs of Microsoft's collaboration and database software. This makes the buy as much about talent as technology.
Building a bridge between the on-premises world and the cloud is crucial to Google if it is to attack Microsoft in the collaboration software market. While more than 2 million businesses are using the Google Apps suite, including Google Docs and other collaboration tools, Microsoft Office has more than 500 million users.
DocVerse isn't the only company to recognize the value of building bridges between the legacy on-premises world of Microsoft and Google's cloud. Jive Software used DocVerse to integrate with Office. Startup OffiSync makes an Office plug-in that lets users access Google Apps, Google Docs and Google search from Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents.
eWEEK asked OffiSync founder Oudi Antebi if he felt gratified by his part in the Office-to-Google-Apps bridge building.
Antebi said one key difference between DocVerse and OffiSync is that DocVerse doesn't integrate with Google Docs and Google Sites. OffiSync does and targets Google Apps customers "who would not have chosen anything else but Google," he said.
"OffiSync is a better fit for customers who have already made a bet on Google Docs and Google sites but still use Microsoft Office on the desktop," Antebi said. "DocVerse might be a better fit for those that have not used Google Sites and Google Docs."
OffiSync is trying to out-Google Google, in a way. This is a risky and gutsy play. While Antebi acknowledged that Google has the technology and talent to build a solution that could be redundant with OffiSync's, he said his company is working to integrate with other cloud-based collaboration providers. He declined to say which.
OffiSync is also "doing some very neat new things that include smart text recognition and other things that take collaboration to a whole new place," Antebi claimed.
How this will translate in the market remains to be seen. When eWEEK last talked with OffiSync, the company had added support for the Google Sites wiki application.
DocVerse is Google's second acquisition this week, following the company's March 1 purchase of photo-editing shop Picnik.
Google in 2010 also acquired mobile e-mail search company ReMail, and social search engine Aardvark. DocVerse is Google's second collaboration-oriented acquisition in the last several months, following the company's December purchase of AppJet.