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Open Office is nice, but don't count it unseating Microsoft from the Desktop so soon

By Andrew Pollack on 09/22/2005 at 10:56 PM EDT

Don’t count on Open Office with IBM Workplace killing Microsoft Office any time soon. I like both products, and I’d love to see Microsoft take it on the chin now and again; but the marketplace has done what it does best – and it has sent Microsoft scurrying off to be more creative to stay ahead.

Open Office is fantastic because it empowers people who don’t want or can’t afford Microsoft Office. That one product, combined with growing Linux adoption at the desktop (though that has leveled off for a bit, I think) is the one thing that really has Microsoft worried. Their response has been to completely rethink Office in a bigger way then ever.

There are clearly a few key goals visible in the design of the new Office 12 user interface. Let me spell them out:

1. It needs to look flashy. Everyone will know if you’re using the Office. To be one of the cool kids, you’re going to want this thing on your desk.
2. It needs to give people a tangible reason to upgrade. They did it. It isn’t so much that they’ve added features, as they’ve bubbled more features to your fingertips. In Office 12, most users will produce better looking documents. No question.
3. It needs to be totally dependant on a new kind of graphics engine. If it uses the same libraries as before, the Open Office folks will copy it quickly. They’ve done that too. The new Office 12 seems to have a graphics engine in it that borrows from first person video games. Everything happens “live” on the screen. Zooming and previewing are smooth and interactive. It will quickly feel to a user more like “gesturing” than selecting options.

What Microsoft has done is a fantastic job of creating something that’s cool to work with (they’ve always been good at that) and at the same time completely breaks with tradition so fully that before the Open Office people can even start to copy it, the Java people will need to add a whole new graphics engine to the AWT interface. That sets the clock back months, if not a year.

I love it when market forces work.


There are  - loading -  comments....

personally I am betting on OpenOffice.OrgBy Alan Bell on 09/26/2005 at 05:13 PM EDT
I haven't had a computer with MS Office installed for nearly 3 years now, but I
have met people who do still use MS Office. I can see the de facto interchange
standard of .doc being replaced over time by the OASIS opendoc standard. This
seems to be the position of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I think more
will follow. I think MS Office will support opendoc, even if it takes a third
party extension to do so. (Opportunity for someone there . . .). As long as it
can be made to work with the standard format then I think it can survive as a
product, but I don't think they will be able to maintain their premium pricing
for it.


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