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Google To Microsoft On Office Vs. Docs: Oh Yeah?

Google says Microsoft's argument that its software provides the best possible rendering of Office docs shows its desire to lock customers into proprietary document formats.

On Tuesday, Alex Payne, director of Microsoft's online product management team, said Office and Google Docs don't play well together because Google Docs converts Office files into a different file format for viewing and editing, which strips out fonts, styles, charts, and other page elements.

On Wednesday, Google said it has made "a lot of progress" in maintaining document fidelity when importing Microsoft Office documents into Google Docs. But Google apparently also sees some irony in Microsoft's reasoning.

"It says a lot about Microsoft's approach to customer lock-in that the company touts its proprietary document formats, which only Microsoft software can render with true fidelity, as the reason to avoid using other products," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail.

Microsoft says it has worked extensively on preserving document fidelity, and Payne said Office files viewed on a rich client are "almost identical" to those viewed through a browser using Microsoft's Office Web Apps, the free versions of which will launch in June.

But Google has an ace up its sleeve, too. Its acquisition of DocVerse in March brought technology that Google says enables "true collaboration right within Microsoft Office," allowing people to use desktop software with the same collaborative elements that are one of cloud computing's biggest draws. Google says its DocVerse integration with Google Apps is coming "soon."

DocVerse may be in fact Google's most strategic acquisition in its office productivity software battle with Microsoft. That's because DocVerse's co-founders, CEO Shan Sinha and CTO Alex DeNeui, are both Microsoft veterans and its team also includes Himanshu Vasishth, a former Microsoft engineer.

It's not clear if any office chairs were destroyed at Microsoft as a result of the talent Microsoft lost in the DocVerse deal, but this talent could force Microsoft to find other areas to attack Google Docs. And if DocVerse does end up providing the bridge to Office apps that Google Apps has lacked, the egg on Microsoft's face will have to be removed with an ice scraper.

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