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Google is set to launch a test version of an online spreadsheet, further
extending the range of internet-based alternatives it offers to elements of the widely-used Microsoft Office suite of desktop software.

However, the internet search company said it believed its latest service would be “complementary” to Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet, which is included in Office, rather than a rival.

“We think we’re solving a different problem,” said Jonathan Rochelle, product manager for the Google spreadsheet project. Users would turn to online spreadsheets mainly so they could share the information with other people on the web, or let others edit the information, he said.

Google’s steady move into server-based applications, accessible over the internet, has raised the prospect of growing conflict with arch-rival Microsoft, whose Office desktop applications generated nearly $8bn of operating profits on revenues of $11bn last year. One recent acquisition, of online word processing company Writely, appeared to take direct aim at Word.

Like other independent providers of online applications, Google has maintained that its services are designed to let people share information over the internet more easily rather than to act as full-featured desktop alternatives.

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