Update: Google Docs is live now.
Google will announce tomorrow at the Office 2.0 conference a new product called Google Docs, which will merge Writely and Google Spreadsheets into a collaboration and document management solution, according to sources.
The new offering will be available at docs.google.com, although that address produces a 404 error right now.
According to sources, Google Docs isn't so much a new online software app as it is a combination of the two existing products. However, Google Docs focuses on collaboration among multiple users.
Google Docs will allow users to create spreadsheets and Writely documents and access them in a single location. Users will also be able to publish their information on blogs and Web pages, and export to a variety of common file formats.
With this release, Google continues to take closer aim at the online office space. Earlier this year, Google announced Google Apps for Your Domain, a free package that combined Google's e-mail, calendar, IM and page creation software. Google also recently incorporated Writely into Google Accounts.
Google released Google Spreadsheets in June. Google purchased startup Writely.com, one of the more popular Web 2.0 office applications, last March.
Google will likely spin this release as something that complements existing desktop applications, since both Writely and Spreadsheets allow import and export of Microsoft file types. But with this release, Google is leaping ahead of Microsoft's online document efforts. Microsoft currently offers an application called Windows Live Writer Beta, but has yet to announce online versions of its other traditional office products.
Google Docs also marks Google's continuing efforts to link desktop applications with the Web. Just a few weeks ago Google announced a deal with Intuit whereby Google services would be integrated with Quickbooks 2007.
To my mind, though, Google Docs isn't about competing with Microsoft as much as it is about getting office software users accustomed to working online. The more people using online software, the more eyeballs and customers for Google ads.
By merging existing products, I imagine Google will also achieve a clearer view of how office workers use online applications. Plus, Google gets to prove Microsoft Sharepoint Server director Tom Rizzo wrong. When Google released Apps for Your Domain, Rizzo told InformationWeek: "The Google solution is what I'd call patchwork, or Frankenstein, software. You have to put it all together yourself."
Looks like they did, Tom.