Google has upgraded its online package of word processing and spreadsheet programs so they work even more like the Microsoft applications with which they're competing.
The changes introduced Monday include several editing tools for word processing and quicker ways to fill cells in spreadsheets. The new features have long been staples in Microsoft's widely used Office suite of software.
Google Inc. has been trying to lure users away from Microsoft Corp.'s products for several years in an effort to siphon revenue from one of its biggest rivals. At the same time, Google hopes to diversify its own business, lessening its financial dependence on Internet advertising powered primarily by its search engine. Winning converts has taken time because Google requires people to reach its programs over the Internet _ a concept that has become known as "cloud computing." Microsoft's competing applications typically are installed on individual computers.
Google believes it has developed a superior, less expensive alternative because hosting the applications in a Web browser makes them accessible on any computer with an Internet connection. But many companies remain reluctant to entrust their technology to an outside service that could be hacked or suffer lengthy outages. To promote cloud computing's advantages, Google hosted the technology decision makers from about 400 companies at its Mountain View headquarters Monday.
In a question-and-answer session at the end of the event, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the company's online suite is aiming to provide about 80 percent of all the tools available in more established programs such as Office.
"Our applications aren't full replacements for the incumbents," Schmidt said.