Redmond vs. Open Source: Let the Office Wars Begin!

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Date: Wednesday, June 26th, 2002, 01:18
Category: Archive

Microsoft has left itself wide open to competition from the open source movement. By leveraging its monopoly position, Microsoft has elevated the price of its Microsoft Office productivity software into uncharted territory and is now pushing a very aggressive licensing scheme that should sour even its most conservative and loyal customers. It would seem that any software company with a good enough product could sell an office productivity package for about a third of the cost. At about the same as the cost of an Office upgrade or annual licensing fee, this is not good enough to overcome the de-facto standard that Office has set throughout the corporate world. Enter Open Office. It’s FREE and it uses the same document formats as Office. Did I mention that it was FREE? (Click read more for the full story.)


Microsoft has left itself wide open to competition from the open source movement. By leveraging its monopoly position, Microsoft has elevated the price of its Microsoft Office productivity software into uncharted territory and is now pushing a very aggressive licensing scheme that should sour even its most conservative and loyal customers. It would seem that any software company with a good enough product could sell an office productivity package for about a third of the cost. At about the same as the cost of an Office upgrade or annual licensing fee, this is not good enough to overcome the de-facto standard that Office has set throughout the corporate world. Enter Open Office. It’s FREE and it uses the same document formats as Office. Did I mention that it was FREE?

Remember when Netscape was the dominant browser? The earliest versions of Explorer were not nearly as good, but they were FREE. Microsoft also forced it on OEMs and had Netscape forcibly removed from the desktop and now Explorer owns 94% of the market. Microsoft has chosen an inopportune time to stick it to it?s customers. Corporate spending is flat and some folks might see Open Office as a great way to cut the IT budget in a big way. This would also be great software for OEM?s to bundle with their consumer machines or for employees to install on their home computers. Microsoft hates the open source movement, but why shouldn?t office productivity software be democratized with everyone benefiting from the effort. This type of software is about as mature as it can get without any big surprises down the road. How can Microsoft continue to extract a huge income stream by simply tweaking and bloating the software every now and again? It can?t!

What would this mean for Mac users? Apple?s health would no longer hinge on whether or not Microsoft continues to develop Office for the Mac. Mac users would save big on software costs by using Open Office for OS-X on the Pro machines. AppleWorks will never run on Windows and is a financial drain for Apple to develop. It serves a limited purpose right now and certainly helps to sell consumer machines. One of the big costs in switching from Windows to Mac OS is the price of buying Microsoft Office all over again. There is no upgrade path across platforms, for obvious reasons. And Entourage users could easily switch to the built in mail program in OS-X. Success for Open Office on Windows machines will strengthen the Mac platform.

A word about Lindows. This effort is aimed at the low end of PC?s where the operating system is by far the most expensive component. Kind of like Linux running Virtual PC with a Windows translator so that no licensing fees go to Microsoft. With a $500 bargain computer, this cuts the cost significantly and gets more people using Unix. Good luck to them!

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