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Israel Stops Buying Microsoft Software

"In an apparent showdown over price, Israel's government has suspended purchases of Microsoft productivity software and is encouraging the development of an open source alternative."

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=528&e=2&u=/ap/20031230/ap_on_hi_te/israel_microsoft

Anonymous
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Of course they are encouraging the development of an open source alternative!  I'd be more impressed if they committed real dollars to furthering the development, etc.  And, lets face it, nobody cares about open source, they just want it free!

ydnubm
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

If their agencies work anything like ours, there will be an allowance for variances based on extenuating circumstances and everyone responsible for purchasing decisions in every bureau will find a need for a variance.

What's more, it's only the finance ministry dictum. Other ministries are yet to be heard from and private enterprise is not going to switch unless they are forced to be compatible with a government agency. And the government contracts will allow for variances... here we get recursive.

old_timer
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

ydnubm, you sound like there is something wrong with that. It is the essence of capitalism. If there is a less priced alternative, people will choose it. There is nothing magical in MS Office, productivity software is not rocket science.

Passater
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I remember a lot of talks a few months ago how israeli goverment is planning to contract microsoft and make them a strategic partner. Some day, probably when Linux wins an European contract, that changed 180 deegres...

Evgeny Gesin /Javadesk.com/
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Actually, there is something magical about productivity software -- it's very difficult to get right. Not only do you have to nail down what the user needs for word processing, spreadsheets, database, and slide shows, but you have to get all those apps to integrate.

Sure, there are flaws in Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but overall they're damn good. I think it'll be a long time until the open source community can replicate what Microsoft has spent millions of dollars and the better part of a decade creating.

Even Apple -- who have a very strong business interest in having a good productivity suite on the Mac -- haven't been able to put together a solid offering. Only Keynote (a slide show application) is available from Apple. AppleWorks (not updated in 3 years) can't compete.

I've tried the open source alternatives, but they consistently lack features or compatability. It feels like I'm using software from the mid-1990s! I hate to say this, but Microsoft's productivity suite is magical. That's why they can charge so much for it and why switching from the MS platform is so difficult.

Jeremy
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Actually I consider AppleWorks to be vastly, I say, vastly superior to Word in every way. I am quite productive with it and stould probably upgrade someday from version 3 to 6 or whatever they got now so it will run native.

Ed the Millwright
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

think it'll be a long time until the open source community can replicate what Microsoft has spent millions of dollars and the better part of a decade creating.


Bzzzzzt-incorrect.  Tell me what you have in office that is not available in openoffice that is in use by over 5% of the office workers.

Intergration?  Everyone says its critical, but rarely is it used.  Functionality, we all have a good laugh a mail merge, but other than spammers who uses it?  Sure you can always find some-one-, but they are few and far between.

The reason people upgraded from Office97 to 2000 or XP is it either came with the new machine or they were worried about support.  Another joke.  When was the last time you called MS for support on excel? 

Exactly my point.

AnonAnonAnon
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I've got to agree; if you look at OpenOffice it's hard to come up with a reason not to use it based on functionality. In the past OpenOffice was different enough from MS Office to drive MS Office users crazy, but I don't find that is really the case any more.

All and all, it feels like Office has been "done" for several revisions now. Yes, there is some new advanced functionality but most people just don't use OLAP cubes in Excel.

Related to an early thread, MS is starting to see Office sales cool. I think to drive sales and maintain their market position, they'll need to create some completely new type of application (not a Word Processor, not a Spreadsheet, etc...).

Mark Smith
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I'm not anti-OpenOffice, but I've been disappointed with it and every other open source productivity tool I've ever used.  People may laugh or balk, but I think that Excel is the best application, ever. None of the open source equivalents even come close.

Bear in mind this quote from Eric Sink's article linked to in other threads: "The research and development costs of a word processor are simply too high to give it away"

>>Intergration?[sic]  Everyone says its critical, but rarely is it used.
I embed Excel spreadsheet in Word docs all the time.  Also, not only do I embed Excel charts in many Power Point presentations, Ibut I've seen many others do it to.

>>The reason people upgraded from Office97 to 2000 or XP is it either came with the new machine or they were worried about support.
Agreed. Office 97 had all the features that most users will ever need.

Anon E. Mouse
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Curious:

What specifically do you find superior in Excel vs. OpenOffice 1.1 Spreadsheet?

Mark Smith
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

A phenemenal number of people use mail merge. Any small company that needs to send out letters to its customers, or simply custom emails.

It's also a quick and dirty way of producing a report.

In an academic environment it's used for producing diplomas, reports, exams, schedules and more.

Again you can keep data in Access, but do quick and diirty analysis in Excel, and for non-repeating reports it's much easier to import to Excel than to set up an Access report.

Above all you've got VBA tightly integrated into the programs so you can write your own macros or other simple programs.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Another vote for VBA.  VB for apps give a lot of power to those productivity apps.

Also, there are a lot of free (or cheap) addins for Excel that make use of VBA. I've done some minor VBA programming as well.

I've tried Open Office and it kept crashing my laptop.

That experience, and a need for VBA has kept me off Open Office.  Of course, I'm also still using Excel 97 and got Word 2000 only because it came on my computer (although ,generally, I think it's an improvement).

Although, honestly, MS still doesn't have a good OUTLINE feature in Word (at least up to Word 2000).

Entrepreneur
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Integration, is still under utilized.  I see office people all the time recreating spreadsheet data for their word documents.  Or creating charts directly in Powerpoint.  It is handy, but I don't know that people buy for it.

As for VBA, I do love it.  But I also recognize that it is niche for again _most_ people do not even use macros.  The thought of a VBA interface for repetative work is beyond them.  So, like have a car that can do 140 mph, it is not a true value add to the thousands of average users.  (The same for mail merge. )

MS Office  is a great product. But the claim that nothing comes near it is unrealistic.  If I would guess what is keeping Bill G. up at night, it is losing the Office business more than the OS business.  It is FAR easier to lose.

AnonAnonAnon
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

OK... a bit of context. I use Windows at work and Mac at home. Every time I try one of the open source suites (on Mac or Windows), it doesn't feel right, or simply doesn't work. My main complaint is that it doesn't faithfully reproduce MS Office documents. That's a problem when people send you legal documents fomatted just right in MS Word but look like crap in OpenOffice. Or a flyer with some line art that looks great in MS Word by isn't visible in OpenOffice. I've also had stability problems. Sure, MS Office crashes now and then, but overall it's quite stable.

Maybe it's time to try again... but I'm not holding my breath. Anon, perhaps the 5% I use is different than the 5% "most office workers" use. The MS suite, on both Mac and Windows, has always been far more polished and met my expectations. However, I will try again. I would certainly prefer a non-Microsoft product.

Ed, AppleWorks is indeed a fine word processor and suits many people -- but an office suite it is not. It also suffers from the same problems as OpenOffice in that it can't faithfully render MS Office documents. In a world where so many people are using MS Office, an alternative office suite can't gain traction unless it does that and generates documents that are rendered perfectly by MS Office.

Jeremy
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

You do realize that Word documents that are "fomatted just right" won't look the same in Word on another computer depending on a number of variables including fonts installed and default printer?  Word is a word processing program, not a page layout program.

There are really only a handful of features that most people should be using and several dozen that are just abused.  Font face and size, bold, italic, underline, alignment, line spacing, header and footer, bullets, and maybe tables are about all most people should be using.  All of these things could be done in word processing programs in DOS and they were much more reliable and less bloated.  Unfortunately too many people feel the need to spend an hour formatting a simple letter because it really contains no content.

Anonymous
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I wouldn't say that MS Office is 'magical' or perfect so much as its ubiquity makes it *the standard* in office suites, and any deviation from that is a minus.

By that score, Open Office is pretty damn good--it comes closer than anything else I've seen, and the real costs to switching to it is a dip in productivity and the overall negative office karma as people bitch about how they can't do X (meaning that they don't know how to do it or achieve the exact same effect).

Given the overall low level of computer knowledge among most employees where I work (especially those just starting), I'm often fascinated by the thought that, if they were to start their jobs using a linux based desktop (say, KDE) with Open Office on it, they probably wouldn't know the difference from Windows and Office unless someone told them.  The transition costs of switching to Linux/OpenOffice are prohibitively high for us, but it's an interesting thought experiment.

Justin Johnson
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

"There are really only a handful of features that most people should be using and several dozen that are just abused.  Font face and size, bold, italic, underline, alignment, line spacing, header and footer, bullets, and maybe tables are about all most people should be using.  All of these things could be done in word processing programs in DOS and they were much more reliable and less bloated.  Unfortunately too many people feel the need to spend an hour formatting a simple letter because it really contains no content. "

Here lies the problem of people designing alternatives. You can not dictate what people *should* be using. People will use whatever they want, and if alternative software does not provide those features it won't be adopted. I think Joel treated this problem in one of his articles.

In my case, support for VBA in a spreadsheet is essential, because I try to automate many tasks, and have a large number of functions written in VBA. I don't care much about more complicated features in Word, because I use it only for simple documents. I use LaTeX for large documents.

uncronopio
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

old_timer mentioned that it's just the ministry of finance. I don't know how it is in other states, but in Israel, the ministry of finance has a final word about most of the spending in other offices, *especially* with respect to commodities such as computers and productivity software.

The other offices *can't* just go out and buy something else (with few exceptions). If the decision holds (which I doubt - I think that the ministry is just trying to strong-arm microsoft into a much more favourable deal), all the government will effectively switch to OpenOffice within a few years.

Ori Berger
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

>What specifically do you find superior in Excel vs. >OpenOffice 1.1 Spreadsheet?

I have a story about word compatibility.
ooffice was ok, until i got hold of a really important
document that uses OLE linking/embedding to other documents.
Now i only have linux at work ...

Michael Moser
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

There is one area where MS Office beats OpenOffice hands down regardless of what percentage of the feature set you care about - that is startup time. The Microsoft productivity applications start essentially instantaneously on my old 1G PIII w/512K running Win2K, whereas OpenOffice on RedHat 9 on a 2.2 G Pentium with 1G of RAM takes many seconds to start. For me startup time is the most important feature of Word.

Anthony Short
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

My favorite part

" "On a policy level, the government is committed to expanding computer use. We want open source technology to spread, so more people will be able to afford computers," she said"

Mike
Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Anthony, the reason that Office starts up faster is that it loads common dlls at system startup.  Remove that (usually by deleting a shortcut in the startup menu) and it'll go much slower (though your computer will be ready faster after logging on).  Open Office  has the same feature, it's just more polite about turning it on.

OOffice still takes a bit longer to open, but the difference isn't nearly so noticeable.

Justin Johnson
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

"[AppleWorks] an office suite it is not."

On the Mac platform it is much superior as a suite than office since office on os x does not come with Access, but AppleWorks does have an integrated database that can communicate with your other documents. There is a very primitive and clumsy mail merge in Office Mac X, but it is totally unusable and kludgy, and worthless.

"It also suffers from the same problems as OpenOffice in that it can't faithfully render MS Office documents."

OS X MS Word can not faithfully render MS Office documents either so it is a draw there. Send me any Word document you like - it won't look the same or even have the same number of pages in OS X as it does in XP.

"In a world where so many people are using MS Office, an alternative office suite can't gain traction unless it does that and generates documents that are rendered perfectly by MS Office."

I agree that would be a great feature but like I said, on the Mac, MS Word does not do this. For many documents, AppleWorks renders word documents more faithfully than OS X Word does.

Ed the Millwright
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

While we use MS Office internally, every document that leaves my employer is in PDF format. Our primary business is research and consulting, driven largely by the purchase of reports. All of which are delivered in PDF format.

While I still think we're screwed up in many other ways, this is one of the few good decisions I've seen. And as a result of this decision, I've encountered almost no resistence to the idea of using alternatives to MS Office -- especially when we consider the cost of upgrading everyone from Office 97/2000 to Office 2003.

Jeff Watkins
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Besides, I don't think it is a good idea to send around files in MS Office formats. they are proprietary. Enough said.

Passater
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

You send files round in Word format if you want the other guy to edit it, or it is so large or contains so many graphics that .rtf would produce too big a file size.

.pdf is good for printing. If your report is not going to be printed, then you should use .html. That is what it was invented for.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Just a note or two. First of all, Israel does not "stop" buying Microsoft software. It justs does not pay for a site-wide license and buys them individually. This may actually increase the payment payed by the Israeli Government to Microsoft in the short term.

I still back this up, because I think it would increase the demand for the government to switch to using open source alternatives, and may actually inject some development of them as well. This would in turn, be good for the citizens who won't have to pay or illegaly copy software of proprietary vendors, and can use open source alternatives legitimately.

That put aside, my opinion on Microsoft Office is this: Excel is the best spreadsheet program I've seen, and I like it very much. Word sucks big time (in comparison to WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS, DocBook/XML and LaTeX, or even HTML in many cases). PowerPoint is very nice, but sometimes heavily abused by clueless presentation makers. MS Access is cute but the Jet database does not scale too well (or so I've heard, even from Microsoft officials).

As for the different versions: Microsoft Office 95 was quite OK. Office 97' and 2000' sucked pretty badly and were full of bugs. Office XP was again very nice for a change.

OpenOffice seems nice and all, but its spreadsheet program is a far cry from being a good Excel replacement. The word processing program and presentation makers seem good enough for my relatively limited needs of them. (perhaps even better than MS Office in some respects).

OpenOffice is probably not yet an MS Office killer, but certainly aims to be one in the future, so Microsoft has something to worry about.

Shlomi Fish
Thursday, January 01, 2004

Where on earth do you get your opinions on the different versions of Office from? I can assure you that Office 2000 is, because of Unicode, a lot more stable than older versions.

As far as Word Processors go it's simple; people like the first one they learnt, and any deviation from that sucks. If Word is so much worse than all the others how come people are paying loads of money for it, and often won't install the competition even when it's free? Remember that Open Office was originally a German company's office suite and only became free because nobody was prepared to pay for it.

MS will say that Jet doesn't scale too well because they want to sell you SQL server and the attendant client licenses, and another copy of W2K server and the client licenses. If you tell them you're really glad to know that and are going to tell your company to ditch Outlook for Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino because Exchange uses the Jet database engine and therefore doesn't scale, you'll hear another story.

Anyway MS Access is the best development tool both for MS SQL and Oracle if you are running it on Windows.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 01, 2004

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