Google's to debut an online spreadsheet feature Tuesday, as it heightens its battle with rival Microsoft for the heart of business and consumer computer desktops.
Google Spreadsheets will allow more than one person to work on the same document, along with other staple spreadsheet features. Sign-ups for a beta, or test, version begin Tuesday.
Especially telling of Google's intent to take on Microsoft is how Google Spreadsheets uses the same file formats as Microsoft's ubiquitous Excel brand spreadsheet maker. Conceivably, that could mean it would be very easy for someone to switch from Excel to Google Spreadsheets.
Another indication Google's got Microsoft in its cross hairs is that it's introducing another free, Internet-based competitor to a major Microsoft product.
In the case of Google Spreadsheets, the comparable Microsoft feature is its Excel. A few weeks ago, Google released a free online calendaring feature, a rival to the day planner that's part of Microsoft's Outlook software.
Next up for Google, many suspect, is an online word processing feature. That would be tilted at Microsoft's ubiquitous Word brand of computer desktop software.
Google signaled its intent to introduce a spreadsheet program in October 2005 after reaching a broad-based agreement with Sun Microsystems.
Publicly, executives at Google scoff at the notion that they are in any way really competing with Microsoft.
Yet, that's hard to square with the fact that Microsoft's top execs have publicly stated that they are watching Google very carefully, and Microsoft's own reaction to all this Google activity.
The software giant has begun mimicking Google's strategy of using the Internet to distribute or serve up office software features. Normally, Microsoft sells its computer programs via shrink-wrapped compact disks available on retail shelves.