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Google's Holiday Wish May Come True: An Online Clone Of Microsoft Office

Rumors of a deal between Google and the Korean developer of an online Microsoft Office clone gained intensity Friday as Kang Tae-jin, CEO of the Korean firm, arrived in Silicon Valley.

Kang's firm, The ThinkFree Corp., makes the ThinkFree Office suite, a highly-regarded bundle of office software that mimics the Microsoft standard. A Google acquisition team—reportedly the same team that led the company's acquisition of YouTube—has visited the Korean company for acquisition talks twice in recent days, according to Korean press reports.

While Google has been acquiring individual pieces of office productivity software, they don't constitute a threat to Microsoft's Office, at least so far. In March, Google acquired tiny Upstartle and its Internet-based Writely word processor. Last month, the search-engine company picked up the founders of Israel-based spreadsheet provider iRows.

"Google isn't just buying code," says Google watcher Stephen Arnold, managing director of Arnold IT. "They're buying people. It's quicker for Google to bring in people who have demonstrated clever problem solving."

Arnold, author of "The Google Legacy," says he doesn't expect to see a comprehensive and effective suite of office software released from Google for six months to a year. He speculated that a Google offering will find its way into a Google appliance someday. Eventually, he expects to see Google link together a variety of office-oriented products, including Gmail, VoIP, word processing, presentation graphics, and spreadsheets.

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