While online office software is still in its infancy, new research released today reveals that the world's number 1 search provider, Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), also led the market as the top provider of Web-based productivity tools for the last three months of 2006.

When the Google Docs and Spreadsheets site launched in October of last year, the unique visitors reached in that month were 445,762 according to Nielsen//NetRatings. The results show that 92 percent of visitors to all web-based productivity sites that month used Google’s site. Also, 95 percent of all user minutes in October were spent with Google.

Google has capitalized on its devoted audience and wide brand recognition to gain traction quickly in this space, but there is clearly a lot of room for growth, said Jon Stewart, senior analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings.

Since October, growth at Google Docs and Spreadsheets has been relatively flat. In November, those Google applications attracted about 424,785 unique visitors. In December, Google had 432,156 visitors.

A number of services offering similar functionality to stand-alone office software has emerged. Sites such as EditGrid.com, Zoho.com, Thinkfree.com, Numsum.com and WriteBoard.com are competing in the market.

Web-based productivity software further extends people's use of the Web browser beyond Web site visitation, and shows how the collaborative power of the Internet is bringing traditionally offline activities online, said Stewart.

With respect to income, the report noted that users of Google Docs and Spreadsheets skew toward the high end. A large majority of users, 76 percent, have an income greater than $50,000 annually, the firm said. It reported that 28 percent of users earned upwards of $100,000.