SAN FRANCISCO - Google is distributing a free software startup kit designed to make computing safer and easier — a generous gesture driven by the company’s desire to steer technology offline as well as online.
The software bundle, unveiled Friday in Las Vegas during a speech by Google co-founder Larry Page, represents the Internet search engine leader’s latest jab at industry kingpin Microsoft Corp.
The suite of programs is designed to make it easier to install and maintain basic applications that have helped turn the PC into a hub of information, entertainment and communications.
With the initiative, Google is setting out to prove that it is better positioned to help people get the most out of their computers than moreestablished software makers, particularly Microsoft — the maker of the pervasive Windows operating system.
‘‘We thought, ’Why can’t using a computer be more fun, simple and empowering?’’’ said Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of search products and user experience.
Six of the programs in the package are owned by Google, which had previously offered all but one on a piecemeal basis.
A screensaver that automatically displays pictures stored on a personal computer is being introduced for the first time as part of the ‘‘Google Pack.’’
With the exception of a Norton antivirus program that is being offered in a free six-month trial, the seven other applications in the Google Pack are already available for free on the Internet.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has simply negotiated agreements to create a one-stop shop for all the applications, supplemented with tools to simplify the process for installing and updating the programs.
Neither Google nor the other participants in the Google Pack are paying each other any money, Mayer said.