Google 'looking to buy' Microsoft Office clone

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Google 'looking to buy' Microsoft Office clone

But developer claims he doesn't want to sell.

Google is hoping to launch an office software suite that mimics Microsoft Office, according to the developer of the software.

However, the Korea-based creator of the ThinkFree suite is reluctant to sell it to Google, an executive at the firm said.

The Google team that handled the recent purchase of YouTube has met twice this month with representatives of ThinkFree Corp, according to Jong-jin Baek, the president of ThinkFree's parent company, Haansoft.

Google's intention is to acquire ThinkFree, Baek claimed in interviews with Korean media over the weekend.

ThinkFree has developed several versions of a Java-based office suite that can run online inside a web browser, or in a standalone version.

The software has attracted generally positive reviews, although there have been some complaints about bugs and instability. The online version is available free of charge.

ThinkFree Office is often described as a 'Microsoft Office clone' because it deliberately mimics the layout of menus and toolbars in Microsoft's Office suite. It can open and save files in Microsoft Office formats.

The cross-platform suite imitates most of the key functions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but lacks some of the more sophisticated features of Microsoft's software.

Haansoft does not want to give up control of ThinkFree, but hopes to form a cooperative alliance to offer the software together with Google, Baek told the Korea Times. However, he maintained that Google is not keen on this idea.

Google already offers an online suite that provides basic spreadsheet and word processing functions. The company purchased Writely, an online word processing firm, in March 2006.

Haansoft appears to have been eyeing Google as a potential suitor for ThinkFree for some time, and company documents appear to outline Haansoft's views on the matter.

A May 2006 Haansoft document for investors features the following excerpt from a review: "Google will be kicking themselves for moving early on Writely. ThinkFree would have been a much better acquisition.

"You'd expect another big player such as Yahoo will be along [soon] to buyout [ThinkFree], and whoever does will give the folks at Microsoft and Google nightmares."

Baek claimed that Google's negotiating team is led by Alan Eustace, the search giant's senior vice president for engineering and research.

According to the Google corporate website, Eustace is responsible for all aspects of Google's product research and development activities.

Google did not reply immediately to a request for comment.
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