Microsoft's Project 'Albany' Takes Aim at Google Docs

Sources say Microsoft is developing a set of entry-level online productivity applications called "Albany" aimed at countering Google Docs.

Microsoft is working on a not-so-secret project, code-named Albany, that will amount to an online, on-demand office productivity suite to compete with the free online Google Docs applications, sources have confirmed to eWEEK.

While the details are sketchy and Microsoft officials have declined to comment on the subject, analysts and media reports suggest that Project Albany is likely a combination of existing Microsoft products-Office Live Workspace, Windows Live OneCare and Microsoft Works-packaged into an online service.

"What I understand is [Albany] is really aimed at Works more than at Office-at occasional users of word processing and spreadsheets-the exact audience that would consider an online productivity suite," said Directions on Microsoft analyst Rob Helm.

Office Live Workspace is billed as an online extension of Office. It lets users create an online work space where documents can be saved and accessed via a Web browser. The work space can be shared with other people for collaboration purposes. Work space owners can control who can view, comment and edit documents. Users can also synchronize contact, task and event lists with Outlook.

Microsoft is previewing Windows Search 4.0. Click here to read more.

Windows Live OneCare brings in a sort of PC infrastructure as a service, with features including anti-virus and anti-spyware protection, online ID protection, proactive configuration fixes and recommendations, Wi-Fi security, multi-PC management tools, printer sharing tools, and backup and restoration capabilities.

Microsoft Works is a productivity suite, similar to Office, aimed at consumers and small businesses. It has word processing and spreadsheet capabilities and is mostly sold at retail stores or preinstalled on new PCs. Currently Works is sold as an on-premises application. But because it competes with Google Docs' sweet spot-casual use by consumers-it's more likely to be a foundation piece of Albany.

Google Docs is a suite of on-demand applications letting users create documents, spreadsheets and presentations, which represents low-level online competition to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. User documents are stored online and can accessed from any browser. Users can invite others to view and make changes to their documents.

What may also be a core part of the Albany project is SharePoint Server 2007, a collaboration and content management server that also includes search.

Helm said Microsoft has already done pieces of the online work with this latest version, including the addition of an online spreadsheet capability and a Windows Live writer positioned as a blogging tool provides some word processing capabilities.

"Microsoft has the raw materials to make a Works-like online suite," Helm said. "So I assume that's what is going to happen with Albany."