updated 3/9/2006 10:52:13 PM ET 2006-03-10T03:52:13

Google Inc. has bought the maker of Writely, an online word processing program that gives the online search engine leader another potential weapon in its escalating battle with Microsoft Corp.

The acquisition of Upstartle, disclosed Thursday on Google's Web site, continues the Mountain View, California-based company's effort to assemble a suite of software applications that are tethered to an Internet connection instead of a single computer's hard drive.

Google didn't reveal how much it paid for Upstartle. In an analyst presentation last week, Google said it has been aggressively buying high-tech startups to deepen its product line as well as its pool of engineering talent.

Upstartle's Writely service, introduced seven months ago, allows its users to share documents on the Internet so people in different locations can write and edit them together. The free service isn't currently accepting new users.

"Coming to Google will eventually give us a leg up on getting things done that we just haven't been able to with our tiny team," Writely wrote on its Web site.

Much of Google's recent buildup appears to be positioning the company to challenge Microsoft, whose dominant Windows operating system and other popular software programs influence how people use their computers. Microsoft in turn has been investing heavily to improve its search technology, hoping to lure traffic away from Google. (MSNBC.com is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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