Google purchases Marratech conferencing software

Acquisition of Swedish start-up's flagship product raises questions about whether Google's planning a WebEx competitor.

Google has acquired the flagship software product of video-conferencing start-up Marratech, leading many to believe that conferencing software may become the next addition to Google's growing office suite.

The acquisition, announced in a post on the company blog Thursday evening, portrayed the acquisition of Stockholm, Sweden-based Marratech's software as a "spontaneous collaboration" and did not provide any financial details of the agreement. Marratech's development and support team plan to remain in Sweden.

Earlier this week, as part of the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, Google CEO Eric Schmidt announced that the company would be adding new presentation software to its Docs & Spreadsheets Web-based office suite-- that had been rumored for some time.

Marratech's conferencing software, which is desktop-based rather than Web-based, is a collaboration tool that includes video, text chat, voice over Internet Protocol audio, and a "whiteboard" feature for documents, presentations or charts.

A conferencing offering from Google could well be viewed as an alternative to services offered by WebEx Communications, which was acquired by Cisco Systems for $3.2 billion in March.

But that's not necessarily the principal reason for the deal: the Google blog post stated that Marratech's software will "enable from-the-desktop participation for Googlers in videoconference meetings wherever there's an Internet connection." Since "Googler" is the preferred term for an employee, not a customer, there's a chance that this means that Marratech's software will be used only for internal purposes--at least initially.

Representatives from Google were not immediately available for comment on the nature of the acquisition.

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