Quip issues API for mobile word processor, aims it at enterprise IT

The startup is also preparing presentation and spreadsheet apps

Quip has released an API for its browser-based word processor that it hopes enterprise developers will use to make the application do more jobs in workplaces.

Quip, which is led by former Facebook CTO Bret Taylor, also plans to launch spreadsheet and presentation applications this year so it can offer customers a suite with the three core productivity components. Quip works on browsers for desktops and mobile devices.

With the API (application programming interface) and the upcoming apps, Quip will forge ahead and battle Microsoft, Google and the many vendors offering office productivity suites that run on tablets, smartphones and PC browsers and that promise improved collaboration via cloud computing.

Taylor is unfazed by Microsoft's recent aggressive moves in this space, including the launch of a native version of Office for the iPad, a move Microsoft intends to replicate for Android and with what it calls a "touch first" version for Windows tablets.

"Our actual usage and downloads went up when Microsoft released Office for the iPad," said Taylor, who in addition to his Facebook stint was FriendFeed's CEO and co-founder and also worked at Google, where he co-created the Maps product and its API.

While he calls Office for iPad a well-designed product, Taylor isn't convinced it's built for collaboration. "Microsoft did a good job porting the Office authoring experience to the iPad, but it didn't add much along the lines of communication and collaboration. It's still fundamentally a single-user experience," he said.

The Quip word processor application was built from the ground up for multi-user, concurrent online and offline collaboration, so in addition to joint content creation and editing capabilities, it has a strong messaging and push notification feature set, according to Taylor.

The API, announced Wednesday, provides full read-write access to Quip documents, so IT departments can use it to create programs that automate the import and export of Quip files to third-party systems and applications. Those might include document management and customer support tools, he said.

"IT departments can take this API as a building block," he said.

For example, the API offers methods for downloading and uploading documents as HTML, allowing enterprise developers to create custom document importers and exporters, like this one for publishing to WordPress, which Quip built.

The API can also be used to post messages and add items to task lists, as well as to add people to documents and to shared folders, according to the company.

The API is free for individual use but requires a fee-based Quip Enterprise account for broader use across an organization.

Quip launched its word processing application about nine months ago, and since then it has been adopted by hundreds of thousands of users in thousands of companies who have created more than 1 million documents with it, Taylor said.

The word processor app is free for up to five users on desktop browsers and iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, and it includes the ability to create shared folders. Quip Business costs US$12 per user, per month for unlimited users and includes other features such as shared team workspaces, adding and removing users, and flagging external sharing. Quip Enterprise, whose price must be negotiated with Quip's sales team, adds more IT administration capabilities, such as single sign-on, usage stats and security features.

There are no current plans to build a Quip version for Windows Phone, but the company would consider it if the Microsoft mobile OS becomes more popular, he said.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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