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April 17, 2007

Google Buys PowerPoint Solutions

Google bought Tonic Systems, a company specialized in Java solutions for PowerPoint.

"Tonic Systems is a San Francisco-based company that provides Java presentation automation products and solutions for document management (...). Features of their products included text extraction for indexing documents, presentation creation capabilities and document conversion tools."

Their most important products are:
  • TonicPoint Builder - Java library to programmatically read, create and manipulate presentations.

  • TonicPoint Transformer - Java library to convert presentations into images (e.g. PNG, BMP and JPEG), PDF documents, Macromedia Flash (SWF) and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG).

  • TonicPoint Filter - Java library to extract text from presentations with full contextual data. The text extraction library orders and organizes the text into its proper position relative to the other information. The output retains the vital information such as which text is on which slide, which are the master slides, which notes belong to which slide, and more.

  • TonicPoint Viewer - Free PowerPoint viewer application for Windows, Mac, and Unix.

This straightforward presentation should be enough to realize that Google bought this company to integrate a PowerPoint-like tool in Google Docs. The official Google blog announces that the presentation tool will be launched this summer.

The question is why Google decided to buy yet another company when they've already developed Google Presently, which seemed an extension of Writely, but probably not powerful enough. It's interesting to see Google buying a lot of companies to accelerate the development of already existing products. This trend shows an impatient Google who wants to build everything, but relies more and more on external resources.

"TonicPoint Viewer, a standalone Java application that allows you to open and view PowerPoint presentations on any platform. The Viewer supports the standard PowerPoint file format used by PowerPoint 97, 2000, XP, 2003, etc. The Viewer uses TonicPoint Transformer technology to display sharp, crisp images of your slides."

Update: Here's an online application created by TonicPoint that will be used for Google's PowerPoint (the link doesn't work anymore, but I've got some screenshots).


  1. Yeah, I'm not too keen on this move, either. The funny thing is.. why are they buying whole companies? Why not just buy the technologies and integrate them themselves, if they're that impatient?

    The thing that really irks me, and makes me question them, is that they're don't seem to be buying up real talent anymore, but rather just people who have done something "slightly neat" with already existing technologies.

    It just seems that once these small companies come aboard, so to speak, all they do is stagnate, while Google forgets that they ever bought them.

    Really, as you said, what is the point of this acquisition, when time could be much better spent getting presently up and running.

  2. TonicPoint uses SVG:

    "Most of the site was pulling together pieces of our existing technology—PowerPoint file format I/O, PNG/PDF/SWF/SVG generation, etc. The biggest new piece of code is the editor. While it's not intended to replace PowerPoint, it nonetheless should be a showcase for how rich standards-based webapps really can be (it heavily uses SVG on browsers that support it, and eventually VML on IE)."

  3. Congratulations on another great article and again, for being the first one to talk about the Google presentation tool.

    Regarding Google's "move", an update on the story take at TechCrunch points out that the acquisition was done to get hold of some of the technology Tonic Systems developed, but they are still using the in-house developed system.

  4. I think that all these kind of acquisitions are dealing not with technology or product purchase but more with buying new customers. We already saw many examples and not only in Google (Bloger, Writley, etc.) but especialy in Yahoo practice who e.g. purchased Flickr and Delicious while already having it's own solutions for the same tasks.

  5. As I mention in my recent blog entry, the bigger question is why, with so many smart software engineers, they aren't doing this themselves? It obviously isn't a lack of talent in the programming department. Perhaps it's the lack of direction in terms of what products to focus on?

  6. @tedzzzz I couldn't agree more. Unless the cost of acquiring the company was in the thousands, it seems rather pointless. I also can't say that I understand why they chose a Java applet solution (those being slow as glue dripping off the horse's back). I'd think thaty they'd be far better off using creating an Adobe Flash (or Flex) solution. is one example of an actually related flash application. While it's far away from PowerPoint, it does display some interesting possibilities.

  7. The server-side code is in Java. Google also writes the server-side code in Java for most web applications (like Google search, Blogger etc.)

    The client-side code for TonicPoint's online app uses SVG/JavaScript.

  8. I do not agree with anybody that this acquisition does not makes sense.

    It is completely sensible move. With one stroke, Google has bought not only customers but also competition. also do not forget, the kind of publicity it gets bcoz of this acquisition.

    the other imp thing is bybuying whole company, you do not re-organise your resources, rather utilise the existing infrastructure, team, identity among employees. even employee morale raises bcoz of google brand, may spur them to contribute more for the product.

    my blog Always Exuberant

  9. How to kill Microsoft ?
    Make exactly the same tools for free ! And since it's online, it's even better !!! (no need to install, freely usable on any PC/Mac/Linux/... system that have a Firefox port)

    Those guys/solutions are insane... i just love it ! :)

  10. I think its Amazing. I think people will have another choice.I am bored by using same old Microsoft Product.

  11. Its good. but i am searching a online based ppt vewer where i can upload the url directly and get the obejct to show on my web site