Office 2010 launch sharpens titanic battle with Google

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The Independent Online

The launch of Office 2010 takes Microsoft's titanic battle with Google into the cloud, retooling its office software to squish the challenge from web-enabled Google Docs. But the two companies' titanic struggle is being played out across the technology landscape, and on the same day came news that Google is working with US telecom giant Verizon on a tablet computer that would rival Apple's iPad and similar devices being created by Microsoft.

Verizon let slip that it plans to start offering its customers a tablet PC that runs on Google's Android software, the special operating system for mobile devices that competes with Windows Mobile from Microsoft. Both Google and Microsoft are trying to lure device makers to use their operating software for smartphones and web-enabled tablet computers.

Apple uses its own, proprietary operating system for its iPhones and iPads, both of which are currently tied exclusively to the AT&T mobile phone network in the US.

Verizon and other carriers have been tempted to become players in the tablet PC market as a potential future wave of growth. Most people in the US have a mobile phone, and many have upgraded already to an internet-enabled smartphone. Tying up with Google and a hardware manufacturer to produce a Verizon-branded tablet could persuade customers to buy a second portable device – and could prevent them leaving for AT&T and Apple.

The iPad was launched amid great hype on 3 April and passed one million sales in the US within a month. It has now also gone on sale overseas.

A Google spokesman said the company had nothing to announce with Verizon imminently. "Anyone can take the Android platform and add code or download it to create a mobile device without restrictions," he told Bloomberg News. "We look forward to seeing what contributions are made and how an open platform spurs innovation."

Microsoft has been pushing Windows Mobile and Windows 7 as potential operating systems for a new generation of netbooks, smartphones and tablet PCs, although no single device has yet caught the public's imagination. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January showed off a new tablet PC from Hewlett-Packard that uses a Microsoft operating system, in an attempt to steal Apple's thunder ahead of the iPad launch.