Google quietly opens up Writely

Despite all its fans, Google opened up public sign-ups to Writely, its online word-processing application, late last week with little fanfare.

Google snagged Writely last March, and until last Thursday, only a limited number of beta users had a crack at playing with it. Now anyone with an e-mail address can have a go.

Google and the Writely team weren't particularly forthright as to why the application, still in beta, is opening up to the public now. According to the Writely blog, "Maybe it was because we just won a very nice product review on CNET ... or maybe it was that ten-billionth person who emailed us to say, "Hey what's UP? When will Writely open again?" Well, in fact, now Writely is truly ready to open its doors to everyone, so let's just do it!"

For the time being, users won't be able to log in to Writely using their Gmail accounts (as they can with other Google applications, like Google Calendar), but according to the Writely blog, that will soon change.

Of course, the question still on many a pundit's mind is, what is Google's aim with its collection of Web-based productivity apps, including Gmail, Calendar, and Google Spreadsheets? Microsoft Office's market share seems to be a likely target, though as InfoWorld Contributing Editor Oliver Rist notes in his Enterprise Windows column this week, for the time being, the brows in Redmond need not sweat too much: Web applications just don't have what it takes to replace productivity applications on the desktop.

Yet.

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