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March 5, 2006

“Microsoft says Open 10 years behind”

Posted by David Hunter at 9:21 PM ET.

Stan Beer has a story at iT Wire that ought to get the juices of the fans of OpenOffice flowing:

As general manager, business strategy, for the Information Worker Group at Microsoft Corporation, Alan Yates develops and guides new business initiatives for the Office products group at Redmond. While we await the release of Microsoft Office 2007, promised to hit our shelves before the end of 2006, Yates dismisses open source rival Open 2.0 as being 10 years out of date.

According to Yates, there are very good reasons for people to pay $500 or more for even the soon to be superseded version of Microsoft Office as opposed to paying nothing for a copy of Open Office 2.0, which the Linux crowd will tell you does the job just as well.

“It really depends upon what job you’re trying to do. Certainly, if you’re just trying to write a few notes or something, Open Office is just fine. The truth is though that Open is really designed to solve the problems that Microsoft focussed on 10 years ago when the model was an individual user working at their individual PC,” says Yates. “The world and Microsoft software has grown way beyond that to make it very easy to do what used to be very hard things. Most documents today are not done by one individual. They’re done by multiple people working on a project at once. Essentially, Open Office is fine if you have very limited needs because it was really designed around what Microsoft Office products were designed around 10 years ago.”

The rationale for this claim isn’t spelled out too clearly, but apparently Mr. Yates is referring to the opportunity provided by Office 2007 to buy additional Microsoft server products, a prospect which I’m sure will be less than exciting for many customers, particularly the smaller ones.

There’s much more in the article, but the listed reasons why customers will supposedly want to rush out and grab an upgrade to Office 2007 seem pretty thin to me. Expanded tool tips? Please. And there are the “it isn’t so bad” reasons like the availability of conversion tools for the new Open XML files emitted by Office 2007 and the belief that the retraining time for the new UI will be minor. Not exactly heady stuff.

Undoubtedly, Office 2007 is improved over Office 2003 just as Office 2003 was improved over Office XP, but the magnitude of the improvement just doesn’t seem compelling enough to prompt any unusual upgrade behavior. As has been said many times before, the office suite market is mature and the older versions of Office are plenty “good enough.” And thereby so is Open Office, but that’s the smallest part of the story.

Update 3/6: The Slashdotters weigh in.

Filed under Coopetition, OOXML, Office, Office 2007,

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