Google has bought video conferencing software and hired engineers from Marratech, a Stockholm-based vendor, a Google spokesman said.

For now, Google will use the software internally, the spokesman said, declining to speculate whether Google might later market the technology or integrate it into one of its commercial products.

Should Google decide to sell the technology, the move would be seen as another in a string of recent steps taking the search company into the collaborative work tools space.

Marratech will continue to operate independently, supporting its customers and resellers following the software's acquisition, it said. However, the software now belongs to Google, so Marratech will not be able to market it any more, the Google spokesman said.

Marratech's engineers, who now work for Google, will remain in Sweden and continue to develop the software. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Marratech's software lets people do audio and video conferencing, application sharing and instant messaging. The client software runs on Windows 2000 or XP, Mac OS X 10.4, or versions of Linux including Mandriva 10.2, Suse 9.1 or Fedora Core 2, and requires a Pentium III or G4 processor running at 1GHz or faster. There is also a server component, Marratech Manager.

Marratech says it is cheaper for companies to buy its server-based system than to use web-based conferencing services that charge by the minute. The company could be talking about services like WebEx, bought last month by Cisco for $3.2 billion.