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The catfight between Facebook and Google is nowhere close to being over.

Social networking titan Facebook announced today that it is embedding Microsoft’s online versions of its Office applications into the Facebook messaging service.

Microsoft’s step into Facebook is less of a grab at the collaboration space and more like another jab at Google. Things have been tense between Google and Facebook since the search giant blocked users from importing Google contacts into other applications. That included Facebook, which then returned the volley by asking users to simply download a file that included contact information and then upload it to Facebook.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has jumped in bed with Facebook at Google’s expense. Google executives have complained that too much data is locked up inside Facebook and hidden from search engines, a situation exacerbated (from Google’s perspective) by Facebook’s decision to share some of that social data with Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which competes directly with Google. Most recently, Bing and Facebook announced a partnership that would allow Bing to return results based on the Facebook “likes” of a user’s friends.

Microsoft brought all of its Office applications online in response to Google’s increasingly popular web document applications. Google doesn’t provide details about how Docs is doing, but it says the app has “tens of millions of users.” And Google Apps, the bundle of business tools that includes Docs, has signed up 2 million companies with more than 25 million users total. Google Docs gives small- to mid-sized businesses with employees strewn across the country a powerful free option for collaboration. The alternative Microsoft offered before release of its Office 365 suite was paying for its Sharepoint program, a file-sharing and collaboration tool that integrates with its Office suite.

If Microsoft were looking to challenge Google in the business collaboration space, it would go after a networking application like Yammer, a social network like Facebook for businesses. But there’s a strong statement that Microsoft could make here with the high school and college student presence on Facebook. I know I used Google Docs and Facebook all the time — and combining the two of them would have shaved a few precious minutes off working on that ten-page term paper.

Either way, this is good news for the collaboration space and just about everyone else. Businesses can cross their fingers and hope to see office application integration — on either Google’s or Microsoft’s end — in other enterprise collaboration services. It also means more fireworks between Google and Facebook. Be sure to grab a bag of popcorn.

[Photo: Marianne Perdomo]

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