Google plans to launch a web-based spreadsheet application today, as it continues building a collection of office productivity applications to compete with Microsoft.

In March, Google acquired Writely, a web-based word processing application, that, like Google Spreadsheets, doesn't require users to download any software to their PCs to use them.

However, like Writely, which has a waiting list for those wanting to access it, Google Spreadsheets will only be available to a limited number of users, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Google Spreadsheets will offer basic spreadsheet functionality, and will lack the capability to create charts and drag and drop data, the journal reported.

This type of hosted application, which users can access online, is seen as a challenge to the traditional type of packaged, PC-based software upon which Microsoft built its thriving Office business.

While smaller players have much more sophisticated offerings in this space, Google's entry into this market, even if its products aren't widely available and lack key features, is significant, given the company's resources and its ability to quickly disrupt markets it enters.

In this case, Google's move adds fuel to its already hot rivalry with Microsoft, which is playing itself out on various fronts, including search engines, web-based email, instant messaging and online advertising.