With its acquisition of DocVerse, announced Friday, Google is offering an online component to Microsoft Word before Microsoft does so itself. 

DocVerse, a company founded by two former Microsoft employees, lets Microsoft Office users share and edit their documents online. The software is an Office plug-in that tracks and synchs changes that people make to a document so that multiple people can work on a file without having to send the file back and forth and try to keep track of changes. 

The functionality sounds similar to that which will be included in Office 2010, the newest version of the software expected to become widely available in June. Office 2010 will let users store, edit and share documents online. 

In a blog post, Google said it still believes that the Web is the best place to create and share information, via its Google Docs offering. "But we recognize that many people are still accustomed to desktop software. So ... we're also making it easier for people to transition to the cloud, and interoperate with desktop applications like Microsoft Office," Jonathan Rochelle, group product manager at Google, wrote in the blog post. "With DocVerse, people can begin to experience some of the benefits of Web-based collaboration using the traditional Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint desktop applications."

Google plans to link Google Docs with the DocVerse offering, according to DocVerse's founders. "Our first step will be to combine DocVerse with Google Apps to create a bridge between Microsoft Office and Google Apps," wrote DocVerse's Shan Sinha, founder and CEO, and Alex DeNeui, founder and CTO, in a blog post.

The move could step up the competition between Google and Microsoft for users. People who have existing versions of Office could decide to use DocVerse rather than upgrade to Office 2010 in order to get the online sharing capabilities. 

It is not clear when a new product from DocVerse that integrates Google Apps will become available.