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Another MS Office killer?

I wonder what everyone else thinks about OpenOffice 1.0.

Over the years there have been many announcements about competitors for MS Office and all failed for a variety of reasons. After playing with OpenOffice for a few weeks I never once needed to revert back to MS Office. I'm no MS hater, but something tells me says that OpenOffice means trouble for Microsoft. While there still might be features lacking (I didn't notice any, but then again I am not a power user) on many accounts it's as good or better than MS Office, plus it's free.

Simple logic says that, even for a giant like Microsoft, it's hard to compete against a free competitor which is as good as your product. And Microsoft can never complain, because they used the same tactics to get rid of Netscape.

Here's a rather positive review in the Washington Post about OpenOffice 1.0:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A4246-2002May11.html

Joel's gonna love this part:
"This program's one real failing as a writing tool is its word-count function, which is concealed inside the File menu and can't measure selected text, just the entire document."

Jan Derk
Monday, May 13, 2002

I use it and like it.  While its a bit on the bloated side (takes a while to load - similar to word), it is very MS-Word compliant.  I have several drafts of large specifications that are loaded with embedded graphics.  OpenOffice (I'm using pre 1.0) opens them without any trouble.  Other office products choke on the embedded stuff (notably abiword, which, BTW I also like).

Nat Ersoz
Monday, May 13, 2002

The problem for MS is that the "good enough" argument has been turned on its head.  Before, it was gates that claimed windows & office was "good enough" to destroy technically superior competition from Apple. Simply because the price was lower.

Now, MS faces the grim spectre of linux distributions coming bundled with OpenOffice.  The OS and Office will be installed all at once. 

The notion of having an automated linux installer put openoffice on the machine when linux is installed is huge;  it means that building a "productive" linux system just became that much easier.  1 install session & your ready to go.

I don't know how much WinXP + OfficeXP go for these days, but I suspect it's higher than the $1.99 that a burned linux distro costs.  (and for those who think that linux sucks, its too hard, etc... think about the progress linux has made over the past 3 years, and ask yourself where it will be in another 2.  KDE is at the point where my mom is comfortable with it.  )

Maybe this competitive threat will actually lead MS to innovate. 

Jack O.
Monday, May 13, 2002

I think i just realized the depths of microsoft's problems tonight.

I was away from my trusty win2k machine, but needed to do some research, whip up a quick spreadsheet in excel format, and mail it out.

The tool at my disposal was  linux machine with KDE3, and openoffice.

The only thing I can say about the experience of working on that machine was that it was unobtrusive.  The tools felt very similar to what one would experience on windows.  If you can use MS office, OO Calc works pretty much the same.  KMail is kind of a stripped-down outlook.

MS probably makes better, more polished tools.  but $0.00 vs. $500...

Jonathan Moore
Monday, May 13, 2002

"I think i just realized the depths of microsoft's problems tonight."

Hah! Hah! That's funny! Wish *I* had a fraction of Microsoft's "problems"!

pb
Monday, May 13, 2002

I haven't tried OpenOffice yet. I tried StarOffice 5.2 before.
It was okay except that the equation editor sucks. Basically it's not WYSIWYG. I guess MS can't do too much about these free competitors. MS will probabily add new features frequently so that the other office software cannot catch up fast enough.

But the popularity of a software depends on factors like advertisement. Many average users just don't know there are other offfice software and even they do they are reluctant to install and try a new software they've never heard of.

S.C.
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

But on a different note, I do sense a bit of the boiling frog situation: stick a frog in boiling water and it jumps out, stick it in cold water and bring to a boil and it dies. My utilization of Microsoft software during the average day has gone from 95% to about 50% (depending on how you count the use of Windows) and I'm just your average knowledge worker, a normally typical user of MS Office and Outlook. So much "work" seems to be taking place in browsers, email, IM, text editing, customer/sales automation tools, http/html, etc. No doubt, Microsoft does have considerable, if not dominant position, here, it's nowhere near what they have in office suites and there's not quite as much lock-in. I don't think cost is that big a factor, though, when you're paying upwards of $100k/year for an employee.

pb
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Jack O. wrote:
"Now, MS faces the grim spectre of linux distributions coming bundled with OpenOffice."

In the short term Microsoft biggest threat is not Linux bundled with OpenOffice, but Dell and Compaq/HP bundling OpenOffice with new Windows PC's.

Jan Derk
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Yeah. OpenOffice works great. But try to export anything fancy from Calc to Excel. Whoops!

Or go from write->Word.

Try it the other way around as well.

There are lots of bugs with the translation and export/import functionality still - which make the software non-MS compatible.

Ryan
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

The biggest threat to Offices Dominance is actually product activation.

Office has become ubiquitous because so many people have 'borrowed' a disk from Work so they can install it at home.

With product activation Microsoft are putting a stop to this activity - and shooting themselves in the foot.

They are forcing home users and education establishments to check out the alternatives.

I'm not advocating piracy, by the way.  I avoid piracy, which is why I use office alternatives.

However, it is thanks to Piracy that Microsoft became upiquitous and so very big.  My stopping Piracy they are forcing users to check out the competition.

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Joel's gonna love this part:
"This program's one real failing as a writing tool is its word-count function, which is concealed inside the File menu and can't measure selected text, just the entire document."


Yes, but check out this part:
One example: I was annoyed enough by the limited, hidden word-count function to file a feature request at the OpenOffice.org Web site. Two days later, I saw that my report had been assigned a tracking number and a programmer, with his e-mail address listed.

When's the last time Microsoft responded to its Office customers like that?

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Just interested in how many people out there actually shelled out the hard earned for MS Office. I've been using it for about 10 years and never paid a cent for it, so its just as cheap as that other thing (Open Office) you're all talking about, and it does everything.

Just curious - how many of you forked out for MS Office?

I know its naughty of me, but it does happen you know.

Tony
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Of course no one pays for Office. As far as I'm concerned it's free: as a student I used it in labs or the $5 copy I could get through my university's bookstore. My wife's still a student, so we can always get the new version for $5.

Of course, every job I've ever had has given me a copy of Office as well. I've never been in a situation where I even need to find a cracked copy, and I _still_ get it for "free"--of course at work my employer's paying.

Don't forget that free open-source software still carries some stigma for most average users. If it's even on their radar, they probably think of it as somewhat risky, unsupported, and "not serious."

When something carries a high price tag, it's frequently considered a superior product--it must be better if they're charging *that* much for it. And as much as MS's advertising turns us all off, there are millions of users whose impressions of the product are formed based on its public, advertised image. That's a powerful force for open-source projects to reckon with.

Andrew
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Tony -- I paid for it, as well as NT4 and Win2K, and every other piece of software I use, including shareware. I figure if I expect people to pay for my software, I have to pay for software when I use it myself. I get value from the software I use, sometimes not equal to what I paid for it (Sonar XL, VS .NET), and sometimes infinitely more than I paid for it (Excel, PowerBasic, VS 6.0).

It does get expensive buying software for 2 desktops and a laptop, but like I said, I get value from it.

What pisses me off though is the refusal of several companies to grant free upgrades when they release a new version 2 months after I buy something from them, because I absolutely would have waited had I known there was a new one on the way. I guess that's a different subject though.

Troy King
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Three comments here...

The old MS Office licence allowed you to take a copy home and install it there, as long at the licence wasn't being used on >1 machine at once.  Most people weren't/aren't being as bad as they think.

I don't think the enterprise licence (or whatever its called) of Office or WinXP require activation.  Not sure how this affects the the licence, but it would be nice to be allowed to install at home.  (So start saving!)

I tried the frog thing, and right enough it worked.  Unfortunately, I've now got a dead pet frog.  Does anyone have any recipies?

ScottB
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

"As far as I'm concerned it's free:"

And worth every penny, too.

Ryan
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Well, if you wanna know the truth, you have to mix and match the open source world to get the results you probably want:

My mixes and matches go like this:

MS Thing              OpenSource
----------              -------------
Word                      OpenOffice & AbiWord
Excel                      gnumeric
Outlook                  evolution w/ connector ($69)
Visio                      dia
IE                            mozilla (very nice)

I don't do presentations, so I don't know what powerpoint type thing there is.  I don't use much KOffice (if any), but I do like KDE as a workspace - especially "konsole" - a multisession command line terminal.

I have mozilla on the kids windows game computer at home, and it is lightning fast.  The MSFT security updates broke IE (I kid you not) and I got frustrated trying to fix it.  So I tried out mozilla on win32 - very nice.

I don't like the bloat of OpenOffice, so I use AbiWord quite often.  But OO is the most word compatible thing out there. 

Gnumeric seems to be completely Excel compatible.  I've never hit a problem here - but then again, I do simple stuff.

Dia is not Visio compatible at all, but very usable.

Evolution with connector (you have to pay for connector, it makes Evolution nearly identical to Outlook) is very close to Outlook.  The only thing it will not do is shedule meetings (the invitation part is not implemented) - but it will accept them.  Everything else works - and sometimes better, like threading a conversation.  Very nice.

Nat Ersoz
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

"I don't think the enterprise licence (or whatever its called) of Office or WinXP require activation. "

That's correct; They are called the Corporate editions of XP and Office XP.

I have Windows XP Corporate installed at home...one of the perks of working for a large multinational IT firm :)

Brad Clarke
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

None of the Excel alternatives provides Pivot Tables, which is a shame because this is an extemely useful feature. On the other hand, almost no one is aware of this feature so it probably doesn't matter .....

Ori Berger
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Aren't pivot tables great.  Why doesn't anybody use them.

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

To tell you the truth just about the ONLY thing I use Excel for these days is pivot tables! (Seriously. I couldn't run my business without them.)

The trouble with the 80/20 rule is that everybody uses a different 20% of the features.

Joel Spolsky
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Which is why MS Office is so popular, especially in corporate environments. It's almost gauranteed to have your 20% in there *somewhere*.

MarkTAW
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

In that case, if someone could tell me how I can either insert pages in my Word document that contain nothing but a few pictures, or skip pages in the automatic page numbering (so I can print pages with images separately), I would be deeply obliged. :-)

Frederik Slijkerman
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

<< In that case, if someone could tell me how I can either insert pages in my Word document that contain nothing but a few pictures, or skip pages in the automatic page numbering (so I can print pages with images separately), I would be deeply obliged. :-) >>

Now we're getting off track. This isn't Office tech support, so I don't want to waste anyone's time with Office minutiae. But if you email me, I think I know what you need to do.

Martin L. Shoemaker
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Ori Berger wrote:
"None of the Excel alternatives provides Pivot Tables"

I already said that I'm not a power user and I haven't used Excel Pivot tables in years (I'm a geek, so I created my database which I query with SQL). But I took a look around and is the Data Pilot in the OpenOffice Data menu not the same as a pivot table in Excel?

Jan Derk
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

I set up a linux machine and attempted to use connector, and I cannot use it to synchronize with my pda, unless I go and shell out for one of those sharp linux PDAs, which I dont want to do. Its this sort of integration that lifts microsoft stuff way up beyond new fledgling projects like linux.
One day, maybe, but at the moment I don't think its even close.

Tanya
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

<< One day, maybe, but at the moment I don't think its even close. >>

Tanya,

I side with you on this one; but we all have to remember that quality is an n-dimensional space, where n is AT LEAST as large as the number of people measuring the quality. That's why these debates make me weary: unless we can all agree on what constitutes quality up front -- never gonna happen! -- arguing "best" vs. "worst" is a waste of time. You might more easily get Saturn and Audi drivers to agree on what's the best car.

Martin L. Shoemaker
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Martin - you're absolutely right, but what I think drives many people up the wall on this particular discussion (open source) is that the open source propronents often seem to run out of ammo after (a) it's free, (b) it isn't Microsoft, and (c) maybe it'll hurt Microsoft.

There's almost no discussion of the actual merits, which makes the discussions almost completely pointless.

Chris Dunford
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

OK, here is another merit:

The Code is open.

If you "Really" want to figure out why something is going wrong.  You Can.

It involves:
1)  Getting the source code
2) Building it yourself
3) Stepping through with a debugger

This is not for the average user.  This is for the programmer.
However, if you look at a lot of the stuff done in Excel or Acess, It is Programming.
My dad runs Multimillion construction projectson an Excel Spreadsheet system he developed.Could he debug some complex Macro using the above steps, probably not.  But I could. 

If you really wanted to figure out why critical application X is crashing, you could go to the source.

Yes, very few people want to do this with office software right now.  But:

Spread sheets integrate nicely with Databases.
People tend to build on top of success
Open source Projects are easy to build on top of.


Thus a possible market is to make an after market service that ties in with An office application.  Perhaps it allows you to design a Purchase order in your spread sheet and import it into your Accounting system (Sure, no-one has ever done that)  Yes, I know you can do it with ActiveX and COM (I've done similar things)  But what if something goes wrong?  How do you Debug?

The other thing that hapens with Good Open Source Projects is that they get refactored.  Someone will realize that the PDF capabilities of the word processor can be applied else where, pull that code out into it's own libraries, and now you can dynamically create PDFs.  (iText, it is what I am working with now)

Does any of this contribute the death knell of MS Office?  Only from a contributor standpoint...

If MS office currently does eveything you need it to do, why bother moving?  Cuz MS will make you move.

If You want to create an add on for an office product, why not just extend it using COM?  Because that may not be the itch you want to scratch.  Perhaps you want it to be network aware.  Oh, just do DCOM.  But you don't want to buy developer studio.  Too Bad.

There are lots of arguments for open source products.  The most compelling were listed by a member of the Peruvian Congress:  http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/25157.html

But I think the most compelling has to be that we need to get off the MS Office Document Format.  Does anyone disagree with that?

Adam
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Chris,

<< but what I think drives many people up the wall on this particular discussion (open source) is that the open source propronents often seem to run out of ammo after (a) it's free, (b) it isn't Microsoft, and (c) maybe it'll hurt Microsoft. >>

Now, the last thing I am is an Open Source fanatic. I have used Open Source tools for exactly two days when auditing an Apache Tools class; and for a number of reasons, I wasn't impressed. I like MS tools, and I'll be glad to give them more money.

But to be fair, the Open Source proponents have a few more arguments, and there's more depth to their arguments than a simple summary would show:

(a) it's free: Well, this IS a valid argument for some people. Basic economics says that the value of a thing is that which a willing buyer chooses to pay. If Open Source users find Open Source solutions to be good enough at a price of free, then necessarily they see the MS offerings as seriously diminished in value. They therefore assume (rightly sometimes, wrongly others) that other people are arbitrarily equating price with value. That's certainly not ALWAYS true: some see a lot of additional value in the features MS offers and their constant R&D. But this is a comparative value judgment, which can never really be settled other than by the market making 200 million individual choices.

(b) it isn't Microsoft: I did my investigation, and decided that most of the ethical qualms people have with MS are -- IN MY OPINION -- groundless. Others look at the same reports and decide -- IN THEIR OPINIONS -- that MS has acted unethically, and they choose not to support poor ethics with their dollars. So for SOME people, this is an ethical decision, and I respect that. For others, it's rampant jealousy, and I have no respect for them at all.

(c) maybe it'll hurt Microsoft: OK, this is (b), stretched to a vindictive extreme. Here I pretty much lose all respect. But I also find it kind of funny, because these people WILL find something to complain about, no matter what. Put them with a bunch of Microsoft users, and they circle the wagons: "IBM, HP, and SUN all back Open Source, along with a lot of others." Then I attended an Apache Tools class where most people were predisposed to Open Source, and what was the main topic of conversation? How SUN was being evil in undercutting Open Source efforts. Funny how I never hear that when the Open-Source-vs.-MS debates are raging. (I could tell similar stories about spying on Mac users in their natural habitat...)

But then there's:

(d) a confirmed belief that software is knowledge, and knowledge should be free. I differentiate these folks from folks who just want free software, yet expect to get paid for THEIR work. These people have a philosophical/moral reason for supporting Open Source. Now I have read their arguments, and find that I disagree on many fronts; but that I can disagree and still respect them for being consistent with their principles.

and

(e) a confirmed belief that development in the open leads to better software. Again, I have read the arguments, and I don't find the conclusions persuasive (again, largely because I think they assume measures of quality that are different from mine); but again, if they believe that open is THE ONE TRUE PATH to better software, then I respect their consistency in supporting open development.

Now, I just paid $2300 for an MSDN Universal Subscription. I'm committed to development on the .NET platform with MS tools. But I recognize that there is a wide range of Open Source proponents, and some of them have some pretty good arguments to make.

Martin L. Shoemaker
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

<< OK, here is another merit:

The Code is open.

If you "Really" want to figure out why something is going wrong. You Can. >>

A good argument that I missed. But this is a positive factor for such a tiny portion of the market, I usually overlook it. Of the customers I have had (prior to my career training developers, since they're a specialty group), pretty close to zero would see any benefit from this. Most would see it as a serious negative, if the Open Source code was ONLY distributed as source. (Fortunately, the Open Source community has largely moved away from that model.)

Now for you, personally, this is no doubt a great advantage. Again, there are many measures of quality.


<< If MS office currently does eveything you need it to do, why bother moving? Cuz MS will make you move. >>

MS has never MADE anyone move. They don't have that power. I know people still getting by on 16-bit Windows and 16-bit MS-Office. All MS has done is to simply make it overwhelmingly attractive/useful to move. That's an economic judgment each user is free to make on his or her own.


<< If You want to create an add on for an office product, why not just extend it using COM? Because that may not be the itch you want to scratch. >>

As a hobby developer, you may scratch any itch you like. As a commercial developer, you should scratch the itch that satisfies the most users for the least investment. In the case of extending Office, that means either macros or COM (or a combination of the two). It's the cost effective way, even if you have to buy a brand new copy of Visual Studio (which costs, typically, the equivalent of five to ten developer hours, and saves you much more than that if you know how to use it).


<< But I think the most compelling has to be that we need to get off the MS Office Document Format. Does anyone disagree with that? >>

Yes. It meets my needs, and is portable within my customer base and within the developers with whom I work. If someone CAN'T read it, I can print to PDF, or export to HTML, or just copy and paste. You may have gripes with it, but I just take it for granted. Again, everyone has different measures of quality.

Martin L. Shoemaker
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Martin -- your posts were very thoughtful.  (a far cry from most of what you read on the net.)  However, I take issue with a comment that you made, that "MS never forced anyone to move to new versions". 

That is untrue.  If I'm running a business, and, hypothetically, my old machine finally gives up the ghost, I cannot call dell and buy a new machine with an old OS.

And because MS set up impossibly restrictive contracts with all major OEMs, this effectively means that it is impossible for me, as a consumer,  to buy a PC clone without microsoft's latest and greatest product.  (Don't believe me? try buying a machine with Win3.1. You can't.  If you tried to buy one with no OS, you'd _still_ get charged for MS' latest product.  This was an issue in that little legal matter that MS just lost.)

Even worse, MS is now stipulating that the OS that comes with a machine is only good on that _particular_ machine.  So, if 'm happy with windows XP, and in 2007 this machine craps out, and I still want to use XP on a new machine that I buy, I cannot.

If that's not "forced", i'm not sure what is.

Sam Longos
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Sam,

<< Martin -- your posts were very thoughtful. (a far cry from most of what you read on the net.) >>

Thank you. I try to see all sides when I can.


<< However, I take issue with a comment that you made, that "MS never forced anyone to move to new versions".

That is untrue. If I'm running a business, and, hypothetically, my old machine finally gives up the ghost, I cannot call dell and buy a new machine with an old OS. >>

I understand the idea, but I don't see it the same way. In a similar situation, I cannot go down to the local Ford dealer and buy a new Ford with a carburetor or with 1960's vintage emission control systems. If I want the vintage equipment, it's up to me to go hunt it down and figure out how to either fit it to a new automobile or else reconstruct a vintage auto to go with the vintage equipment. I see nothing wrong with MS phasing out old product lines. It's still ultimately your choice whether it's easier to upgrade to the new software or keep the old hardware on life support. That's why I called it a comparative value decision: you're not forced to upgrade, but you very well might be smart to do so.

And in this particular case, I usually find it much easier to upgrade all at once: new hardware AND new software at the same time. It concentrates all the pain into one big lump, and then it's over.


<< And because MS set up impossibly restrictive contracts with all major OEMs, this effectively means that it is impossible for me, as a consumer, to buy a PC clone without microsoft's latest and greatest product. (Don't believe me? try buying a machine with Win3.1. You can't. If you tried to buy one with no OS, you'd _still_ get charged for MS' latest product. This was an issue in that little legal matter that MS just lost.) >>

Yep. It's also a place where I think the court got it very wrong (with a lot of help from MS's INCOMPETENT legal counsel -- _I_ could have tried that case better, and I'm not a lawyer). Jerry Pournelle explains my disagreement here much better than I can, but the gist of his argument runs like this (with another auto analogy). Volume price deals are structured on a certain volume. If you went out and bought all the parts for a new Ford F150 Pickup and assembled them manually, the cost would be many times the cost of the assembled vehicle, NOT counting your time or what you would have to spend on special tools. Now in theory, Ford could offer all sorts of removable options on that truck; but past a certain point, it becomes more expensive than just giving you the "expensive" options. I know this one from personal experience: air conditioning costs $500 and gives my wife a serious sinus headache. (What a bargain, eh?) So I specifically ordered her a truck without A/C. You wouldn't believe the run-around! They have all these option packages, simple combinations that can easily be installed or not as a group. No truck they could find lacked A/C; and they seriously contemplated giving me the A/C for free, just to close the deal. Only when I explained that it wasn't the money but the sinus headache did they go the extra mile to find the truck without A/C.

So MS and the OEMs agreed to a contract which guaranteed MS installation on a certain number of machines, and which guaranteed the OEMs a certain price point AND a certain level of support. That's up to them. Pournelle makes a fairly strong case that Windows would cost more to EVERYBODY if they allowed the tiny minority to not have it. Now there are two ways to look at that: the minority can scream, "Why should I pay more so everyone else can pay less?"; or you might check the numbers and find (as Pournelle did) that everyone INCLUDING the minority would pay more if the OS were optional. Are his numbers right? I don't know, but his analogy is enlightening. Again, try to buy that Ford truck WITHOUT a windshield. You MIGHT get the dealer to pull the windshield for you, but you'll pay for it anyway. You'll probably pay MORE for the labor spent removing it.


<< Even worse, MS is now stipulating that the OS that comes with a machine is only good on that _particular_ machine. So, if 'm happy with windows XP, and in 2007 this machine craps out, and I still want to use XP on a new machine that I buy, I cannot. >>

Now this one is a pain, but I haven't studied it yet. I'm still on OEM Win2000 until my MSDN arrives. I hear people say what you say, and I hear others say it's not accurate. But I guarantee, either way, they'll have to back down from anything like this.


<< If that's not "forced", i'm not sure what is. >>

I have to stick with a literal definition: no threats of physical violence or other forms of coercion are involved, so it's not forced. It's your choice. You may not like the choices you face, but life is like that sometimes.

Martin L. Shoemaker
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

----------------------------------------------------------------------
You may not like the choices you face, but life is like that sometimes.
---------------------------------------- Martin L Shoemaker.


And here is the crux of the matter.  The true benefit of open source is that it provides additional choices - not just the ones available from Microsoft.

Open Source is the product of a lot of people who didn't like the choices, and did something about it.  They also worked to help other people do something about it.

People are like that, sometimes.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

<< And here is the crux of the matter. The true benefit of open source is that it provides additional choices - not just the ones available from Microsoft.

Open Source is the product of a lot of people who didn't like the choices, and did something about it. They also worked to help other people do something about it. >>

And THAT reason, I applaud. I don't want those choices myself, but I'm glad you have them.

Martin L. Shoemaker
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Martin, Ged, Sam, Adam,

Nicely argued.  What a pleasure to read a thoughtful and flame-free discussion.

Most of what I would say has been said.  I have only a couple of comments.

1. An additional merit of open source is that it's open: that's true, of course.  But the context of this discussion is "can OpenOffice kill MS Office?"  In my view, anyone who thinks that the actual openness of an open source app is a factor in dethroning MS Office is living in some alternate universe. 

I have no stats, but I certainly imagine that the vast bulk of MS Office revenues come from corporate purchases and OEM purchases for home users.  Hackers, not so much.  What percentage of Aunt Susies are going to be cranking up their VS.Net compilers to fix OpenOffice bugs?  And how many corporate managers are going to tell their expensive programmers, "Say, Bob, this table isn't displaying right in OpenOffice.  I want you to take a couple days off, dig through reams of poorly commented source that you didn't write, and fix this for me.  What's that you say?  Our own release schedule?  Oh, don't worry about that."

I really like the concept of source being available for software that I use (and I certainly might enjoy messing with it myself), but it's -very- difficult to see that being a factor insofar as killing MS apps is concerned.

2) We need to get off MS Office document format: that sure would be nice.  But has anyone noticed that Excel 2002 can read and write its documents using XML, and that MS has documented the XML?  Can the other Office apps be far behind?

I don't want to give the impression that I'm anti-open source.  I'm not.  What I'm saying is that most open source discussions I see don't concentrate on the actual merits of the apps but on what they can do to MS.  Scroll up and note carefully the title of this thread.

Chris Dunford
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

It is nice to get into an intelligent discussion, especially with such an emotive issue.

Getting back on topic, I think the fact that an XML dialect is used for saving documents is a real benefit, although I can see it making the loading of large documents a bit slow.

The potential for automatically generating documents, images and spreadsheets without having to mess about with the api appeals to me.  I look forward to playing with it.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

<< Getting back on topic, I think the fact that an XML dialect is used for saving documents is a real benefit, although I can see it making the loading of large documents a bit slow. >>

Hehehe... I can't speak for Excel, but have you ever opened a Word doc in a hex editor? I can't imagine an XML version could be any worse when it comes to size/speed; but it WOULD be more human-readable.

Martin L. Shoemaker
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Isn't the bigger threat to MS Office from OpenOffice that someone like Dell (more likely Gateway or HPaq) will bundle it with OEM computers?  I'm very happy with OpenOffice on Windows; in fact, I think it works better there than on Linux.

If OEMs bundled it, a lot of small and mid-level businesses that supply themselves with Dells and MS Office licences would reconsider.  That would be cutting the heart out of MS Office's main market.

Justin Johnson
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

>>If OEMs bundled it,

They would get to know the lack of coercion by Microsoft that Martin was talking about.

Andres
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

>>If OEMs bundled it,

  I think it´ll never happen.  If you bundle a Microsoft, or any other company´s product, the company that made the product is responsable for it.  But if you bundle an open source product, your costumers will complain to you about the product´s bugs.

  That´s a headache I think no one is willing to have.

Ricardo Antunes da Costa
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

>> That´s a headache I think no one is willing to have.

That's why there is Redhat, and I suppose that's why there is Sun (OpenOffice).

Dell offers Redhat preinstalled on their servers.  For a short time you could get Redhat installed on a workstation, but not now.

Where there is demand and a reaon, someone will do it...  Dell just needs a reason - one that's big enough to overcome inertia of a proven business model.  Obviously, there was enough reason to offer Linux on servers (plenty of reasons, 2/3 of web servers out there are Unix based).

Nat Ersoz
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

>> They would get to know the lack of coercion by Microsoft that Martin was talking about. <<

I think that Martin's analogy is flawed--comparing Dell or Gateway computers to cars doesn't fit because cars aren't made to order; more specifically, Dell and Gateway don't have a bunch of pre-configured computers sitting around in anticipation of sales for those units with those options.

My own story: my employer is a Dell shop.  The Japanese president wanted a new laptop.  I called Dell and asked if we could get Japanese Windows on it; no, of course not, so we'd have to purchase Japanese Windows separately; can I have it without Windows, since we have to purchase Windows anyway?  No, of course not.  End result: two copies of Windows purchased for one computer (the hypothetical alternative being purchasing the laptop from Sharp in Japan, and paying shipping and duty that outweighed the cost of Windows).

Remind me again how MS' restrictive licencing terms with OEMs costs me less.

>> I think it´ll never happen. If you bundle a Microsoft, or any other company´s product, the company that made the product is responsable for it. But if you bundle an open source product, your costumers will complain to you about the product´s bugs. <<

I'm not sure what you mean by this.  Dell already offers MS Office or Works with their computers (I'm not sure whether or not they support it).  Switch to OpenOffice, even on commodity home machines, and you've got approximately the same value-added component, with zero cost.  Make it a standard component, and you're ahead of your competitors who sell boxes through Best Buy and Circuit City.

Justin Johnson
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

>>If OEMs bundled it,

Lotus managed to get their Smartsuite product onto a lot of machines - and personally I consider Smartsuite to be the best of the lot, though IBM are sadly giving it little development now - but it made little difference.  People would just install a copy of Office.

Of course, if Microsoft managed to stop people from copying Office, things might be different.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

S.C. wrote:
"I tried StarOffice 5.2 before. It was okay except that the equation editor sucks. Basically it's not WYSIWYG. I guess MS can't do too much about these free competitors. MS will probabily add new features frequently so that the other office software cannot catch up fast enough."

Kformula, a KDE/Koffice app, is a WYSIWYG equation editor. It is under development but works rather well. Kformula can accept and convert C function statements such as pow(x,3) + 5*x - 1/(1+x) and render the mathematics in "pretty print", to use Maples terminology. With a little bit of editing, it will also accept the function statements from Scilab or Octave and convert them also. Kformula will interpret pow(x,2), x^2, and x**2 as x with the exponent 2.
Also bear in mind that people participate in open source projects because they are fun and you learn a lot. Open source is not a commercial venture that it has to "beat" Microsoft or any other proprietary software vendor.

Jon
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

>>If OEMs bundled it,

I foresee in the not too distant future OEMs bundling Open Office. It's nearly a foregone conclusion, on the low-end, that it will happen.

Why? Simple economics.  MS Office (what, like $400?)  Can almost _double_ the cost of a low-end eMachine-style system.

The for these OEMs that cater to skinflints,  bundling an office suite that is as good, or better, than MS Office for $0.00 will be too good to pass up.

The alternative, I suppose, would be bundling MS Works.  Which, BTW, i've found to be _less_ interoperable with MS office than Open Office.  Go figure!

Sam Longos
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

just some hard numbers, using the new king of the sloppy clone, Microtel.  These should put some boundries around the conversation.

(from http://www.walmart.com)

MicroTel celeron without windows: $398

Microtel celeron with winXP home:  $498 (so, XP adds about $100. no surprise.)

Now, in addition to the OS cost, if you add in the cost of OfficeXP (going from the numbers generated at dells site when you configure a PC.  my best guess at what a bundle would cost.)

Office "Small Business": $200
(They actually give you back $150 if you choose Works!, thus the markup for Office XP Is $150, over and above works, which is probably $50.)

Office "Pro" $399 (it's another $199 on top of office small business.)

Thus, a microtel base PC with WinXP + Office XP would come out to about $700 for Office "home", $899 for Office Pro.

IF microtel decided to get bold, and offer a base PC with linux + open office, it could go for around $400 (give or take the mark-up that microtel would charge to put mandrake + open office on the machine.)

Thus,  price of the machine effectively doubles if the consumer wants to use MS products.

You can see that Microsoft has a problem here.  As the price of the software has become a greater % of overall machine cost, consumers have begun to push-back. (Of course, because they have a monopoly, the only viable alternatives to MS office  that have arisen are free.  And people are even questioning whether or not the free stuff will succeed!)

Linux and Open Office have made rapid strides in usability over the past 2-3 years, and that -  combined with the pricing problems that MS faces - is why I believe that it is inevitable that a "low end" OEM will soon cross the line, and offer an MS free solution.  Flame away :-)

Sam Longos
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Yeah, I can see it now.

For sale: Intel Pentium XXMVM computer, 8,000 megabytes of ram, 60,000 gigabyte hard drive, $0 in software...

MarkTAW
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

>>Yeah, I can see it now.
>>
>>For sale: Intel Pentium XXMVM computer, 8,000 megabytes of ram, 60,000 gigabyte hard drive, $0 in software...

Sarcasm aside, before microsoft, there was really no thing as the "packaged software industry";  software came with the machine that it was written for.  It was all one big bundle. 

Or men in short-sleeve dress shirts & ties would write custom code for the machines, and get paid for their labor, not for a license.

Perhaps we're coming full-circle?

Sam Longos
Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The shrink wrapped market was around while Microsoft just did DOS and Basic - take Lotus 123 and Wordperfect, for example.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, May 16, 2002

2 points:

"If you bundle a Microsoft, or any other company´s product, the company that made the product is responsable for it." 

This is flat wrong. The OEM license says that when you buy a product bundled with the machine, the machine vendor is responsible for support.  If you call MS with a problem you're having with Windows on your Dell, they'll tell you to call Dell for support. It's how MS keeps their support costs down.

On a side note, did you know that your copy of Office you bought bundled on a machine is licensed only to that machine?  Any upgrade you buy based on owning that bundled copy can only be installed on the machine the bundle was originally on?

The second point I wanted to make was to respond to this:

"You can see that Microsoft has a problem here. As the price of the software has become a greater % of overall machine cost, consumers have begun to push-back. "

For us geeks, the hardware is important.  To most consumers and office users, the hardware is simply a means to run the MS software that they are really seeking.  People buy machines to do things, not to own the machines.  For most people, the headaches of going with "non-standard" software outweigh the benefits of a lower price.

That's why I don't think MS will ever really open the Office document format.

Bob Crosley
Friday, May 17, 2002

> That's why I don't think MS will ever really open the Office document format.

It already has been open for a few years now.  Excel 2000 files are native XML files.  And it goes beyond data in cells, even macros can be represented in the XML. 

As far as this Office debate, I haven't read it....Sorry if the folowing is redundant. 

What is the theorem that says a technology can only replace another one if it LEAPFROGS it?  I believe Gates has said that himself.  Providing something that is "close enough" simply doesn't cut it.  There is LITTLE IMPETUS to bother switching.  When the functionality of MS Office is LEAPFROGGED, THEN there there MAY be a threat.  Until then, get ready for the worldwide domination that Microsoft has spend the last decade preparing for.  Their subscription model will bring the world to its knees.  Only a few annoying tekkies will be spared. 

While on the MS topic,  the last time I coded with Microsoft tools was 1996 (since then it's been Perl, Sybase, Oracle, UNIX, Java, etc).  Despite that, long live Microsoft and Gates, b/c I owe my entire career and livelihood to them.  The insame amount of money we made in the last 5 years are all directly or indirectly due to the worldwide adoption of PC's (and the internet).  You all would be programming mainframes without $atan himself, not to mention there would be 5% of the number of current programming jobs without MS's existance. 

Think of the programming you've done in the past 5 years.  Think of the users your code served.  Then, decide if your code would have been needed if there was no such thing as windows or microsoft or ms-office.  Very little of the work most of us have done in the past 5 years have not touched MS/Windows/Office.

Bella
Friday, May 17, 2002

Bella wrote:
"What is the theorem that says a technology can only replace another one if it LEAPFROGS it?"

In the real world the

Option A: $400
Option B: $0 and being as good and competible with option A

argument is pretty convincing. Some won't care about the money, but many others will. I would not be happy seeing OpenOffice around if I was MS.

Jan Derk
Friday, May 17, 2002

Would anybody out there buy a car with a different pedal alignment if it would knock $500 off the price of the car?

Let's say the brake pedal is on the left, the accellerator is in the middle and the clutch is on the right...It's the same car (every part is identical), but the primary UI is different.  So different, in fact, that you might have to change your driving style just to get used to it...you'd have to change your PATTERNS that are a part of your life.

Now, I'm sure anyone reading this could adopt to the new arrangement (some of us might enjoy it more than the current arrangement), and it might even be a "better" way to drive a car.  However, the average driver would spend the extra $500 IMO just so they could operate a piece of machinery with the confidence and familiarity they've always known.  Basically, in their minds, there is no REASON to change (keep in mind, we're talking about guys like your dad - the "average end user", and quite possibly, the executive (still your dad) who make enterprise-wide policy on software purchases).

Price doesn't really matter, neither does quality (in the short term).  If something makes people happy, makes them feel like they're comfortable, and/or makes them feel like they're in control of their environment, people will stick with it, even if it means spending $800 for comfort vs. $600 for the "unknown".

Jeff MacDonald
Friday, May 17, 2002

Actually, price does matter.  I once worked for a large multinational (revenue = $6+B/yr).  Price mattered.  They quit upgrading office and declared that MS Word 7 was the starndard.  They would hold off upgrading until absolutley necessary.  With 30K employees, upgrading was as significant bite out of the profit line.  This is not an isolated incident, and is occuring more often, especially today:

http://biz.yahoo.com/smart/020502/20020425tech.html

Well, sorry for turning Joel board into the MS commentl line...

Nat Ersoz
Saturday, May 18, 2002

Jeff MacDonald wrote:
"Would anybody out there buy a car with a different pedal alignment if it would knock $500 off the price of the car?"

You are right, very few people would.

However the current situation seems more like: Would anybody buy a car from another manufacturer if the seat covers were green instead of blue and the car was free?

While StarOffice 5.2 could well be compared with a car with different pedal alignments, OpenOffice/StarOffice6 got them just right.

I do think that in the short term most people will still opt for the old manufacturer, because it bought all the advertisement blocks on the television and got dealerships in fancy mirror-glassed buildings in every city. But in the long term they are in trouble.

Jan Derk
Saturday, May 18, 2002

>>"Would anybody out there buy a car with a different pedal >>alignment if it would knock $500 off the price of the car?"

>>You are right, very few people would.

Not necessarily so.  The proof?  Take a look at the radical, new BMW 7-series.  The pedals are in the same place, but that's about it.  The rest of the user interface is entirely different.  Even the method used to start the car isn't obvious (it doesn't have a traditional "key".)

Anyone who wishes to drive this car will need to endure at least 1/2 hour of retraining, and actually probably more time to really understand all of the cars new "features".

Why are people willing to put up with it?  Two reasons.  One, because BMW is promoting these new features as being more logical, and easier to understand (once you're trained),  and two, because the new UI aside, the car has other compelling  benefits that people want (it is fast, it is quiet, it makes you look like a hotshot at the golf club, etc..)

The point is, don't reject a change in the way people work out of hand, just because of inertia.  People moved from DOS-> Win31 -> Win 95 -> Win98 -> win2k, and the economy didn't collapse under the expense of "retraining".  Humans are adaptable.  Many of these fears are overblown.

Sam Longos
Saturday, May 18, 2002

Sam,

Your example is moronic.  The BMW does not need to be COMPATIBLE with other cars.  So slight adjustments are fine.    However,, if it didn't fit in the roadways we have, that would be a serious issue.

Also, people upgraded all those Windows cycles b/c they were BACKWARDS compatible.  Yet another idiotic example. 

Get real, biased tekkie.  Today, (and in the near future), there is almost ZERO reason to replace MS-Office. 

I have 2 phrases for you:
LEAPFROG.........
100% COMPATABILITY

Only handful of ranting tekkies, who probably still use ShitScape/Mozilla to browse the web, may bother.  Most overbiased, purist, zero business sense tekkies I know are unemployed,  so they don't share documents with anyone else anyways.

Bella
Saturday, May 18, 2002


>Only handful of ranting tekkies, who probably still use >ShitScape/Mozilla to browse the web, may bother. Most >overbiased, purist, zero business sense tekkies I know are >unemployed, so they don't share documents with anyone else anyways.

This is the funniest post i've seen this weekend.  Thank you.

Sam Longos
Saturday, May 18, 2002

"They quit upgrading office and declared that MS Word 7 was the starndard."

Considering that exchanging documents with external parties is one of the primary reasons to use MS Office, this seems rather silly.

pb
Sunday, May 19, 2002

"Considering that exchanging documents with external parties is one of the primary reasons to use MS Office, this seems rather silly".

This was a problem at times.  I don't know what resolution came of this - at some point I'm sure they upgraded to a later version, but it was postponed until some pain threshold was reached.  However, as the yahoo biz report mentions, they were not unique in this, merely ahead of their time...

"Customers said no. Microsoft extended the October deadline until December, then reset it again to July 31. With the latest deadline just three months away, 65% of enterprise customers surveyed by Gartner Group have yet to decide whether they'll buy into the program."

and

"To be honest, we currently have Office 2000 and Windows 2000 and we don't need to upgrade," says Dave Duvlea, who runs information systems for Witcher Construction, an arm of the $1.5 billion J.E. Dunn Construction Group, outside Minneapolis. "We hardly use the gobs of features on Office 2000 as it is. Why would I want to commit to buying upgrades on something we don't fully utilize?"

Nat Ersoz
Monday, May 20, 2002

Andrew wrote:
> Of course no one pays for Office. As far as I'm concerned
> it's free: as a student I used it in labs or the $5 copy I
> could get through my university's bookstore. My wife's
> still a student, so we can always get the new version
> for $5.

Andrew, you are so blind.  Look at your tution bill and you'll notice you have paid at least several hundred bucks for software licensing fee.  At the bookstore they are charging you only for the media and distribution.  There aint such thing as free lunch.

Tekumse
Monday, May 20, 2002

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=1993017&thesection=technology&thesubsection=general

Enza says 'no' to Microsoft

21.05.2002
By RICHARD WOOD

" Fruit exporter Enza is saying no to Microsoft's new Software Assurance licensing scheme and is likely to dump Microsoft Office for the bulk of its 500 users.....

Hunt said the new Microsoft licensing model was based on more frequent upgrades than Enza's financial system, SAP. He predicted Microsoft would be hit hard by free "open source" software.

"If you look at me as a typical example, I've got, say, five hundred seats.

"Maybe I put 400 over those onto Open Office and I leave a hundred. So they lose 80 per cent. That's got to hurt."

Another trend, the use of Citrix's thin client technology, favours Microsoft.

Citrix allows Microsoft Windows to run across terminals and lower-cost PCs.

Hunt said he was considering using Citrix at Enza.

He said there was no complete alternative to Windows available for the free operating system Linux.

But he said it was only a matter of time before a free open source equivalent was developed, which he believed would force Citrix to release a Linux version.

"Then it would be extremely easy for me to fill my data centre up with Linux boxes running Metaframe.

"It would cost around $300 a seat and I'd never have to touch a PC on the desktop again. I could run Open Office on those boxes, and SAP on it, because SAP runs on Linux."


--- I suspect that this scenario is going to be played out around many small and medium sized businesses in the coming 1-2 years.

Brian Schnell
Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Pivot Table == DataPilot.

Giuseppe Verde
Monday, October 28, 2002

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