Web Service Helps Non-Office Users Be Compatible - InformationWeek

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Web Service Helps Non-Office Users Be Compatible

With AjaxWrite, customers can create documents and save them on a computer's hard drive as a Microsoft Word file. To get people to sign up, the company founder plans to launch new capabilities every week for the next two months.

Entrepreneur Michael Robertson, a pioneer in online music, launched in beta on Thursday a Web service for creating documents and saving them on a computer's hard drive as a Microsoft Word file.

AjaxWrite is meant for people who do not use Microsoft Office or some other desktop productivity application, but have a need to create a Word document, said Robertson, who founded MP3.com in 1997 and is now chief executive of desktop-Linux distributor Linspire Inc. in San Diego. The new service does not have storage capabilities, collaboration features or even a spell checker, but those capabilities are planned.

The way Robertson sees it, people will eventually want to go to the Internet to write documents and spreadsheets, create presentations or do other chores accomplished today mostly through desktop applications like Microsoft Word, WordPerfect from Corel Corp., or OpenOffice, an open-source suite available for free.

To attract people to AjaxWrite, which is a product of Ajax13 Inc., a company funded by Robertson, he plans to launch new capabilities every Wednesday for the next two months. He declined to list the upcoming features.

"As those products are released, you'll see a business model take shape," Robertson said.

That's possible, given the fact that the lines between the desktop and the Web are blurring. Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. have shipped a variety of desktop applications that are tightly integrated with the Internet, helping to speed up the trend.

With the increasing use of broadband, people are starting to see the Web as an integral part of a computer, which means many capabilities found in desktop applications today are migrating to the Internet.

"As that environment becomes more familiar and the lines between the Web and the desktop blur ... products like AjaxWrite have potentially greater appeal," Joe Wilcox, analyst for JupiterResearch, said.

AjaxWrite, according to Robertson, is unique because the application runs in a Web browser, but looks like a desktop application, with the look and feel of Word. That's made possible by the use of Ajax, a method for developing interactive user interfaces for Web applications, using standards-based enhancements to JavaScript.

"One application (such as AjaxWrite) is of marginal value," Robertson said. "The power of Ajax is when there's a richer suite that accomplishes the majority of what people need to do in a desktop world. That's exactly what we're working on."

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