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Former Microsoft employees aim to googlify Office

Through their stealth San Francisco start-up, DocVerse, two ex-Microsoft employees are taking productivity suite innovation into their own hands.

More than a decade ago, Microsoft won the office productivity suite war against WordPerfect, and arguably, Office has seen little innovation since.

Just as Mozilla Chairman Mitchell Baker has argued in the browser market--namely, that once Microsoft had beat out browser competitors, it failed to innovate for years--so, too, has Microsoft rested on its Office laurels for far too long.

Enter DocVerse, a stealth San Francisco start-up created by two former Microsoft employees that aims to make Microsoft Office operate more like Google Docs, as reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. DocVerse provides a 1MB plug-in to Office 2007 that enables online-document collaboration.

As ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley points out, this functionality is not actually new. After all, Microsoft, too, is offering similar functionality in Office Live Workspace.

However, as DocVerse co-founder Shan Sinha tells Foley, Microsoft's efforts so far leave much to be desired: "Office Live Workspace doesn't provide a feature set that comes close to what we offer, making it a poor user experience (and in our estimation the cause for its lack of uptake)."

I'll go one step further. I don't think Microsoft's heart is in its Live services, and it won't be until it is forced by the market to take the cloud more seriously. Microsoft makes billions of dollars every quarter on its Office product: stodgy, offline Office. It's not going to touch that revenue stream with anything that might jeopardize a cash cow.

So it makes sense that Office innovation will happen outside of Microsoft. Unfortunately, DocVerse is going to find out that innovating on a closed platform is likely to be an exercise in frustration. Microsoft owns Office. It therefore owns the types and scope of innovation that can happen on the platform.

Even so, it's good to see innovation in Microsoft Office again--even if it happening outside of Redmond.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.