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OpenOffice.org Tries to Woo Dell 316

Posted by Zonk
from the maybe-they-need-to-hire-professional-wooers dept.
Rob writes "OpenOffice.org project members have written to Dell (pdf), hoping to persuade the company to adopt OpenOffice in response to customer demand. John McCreesh, OpenOffice.org marketing project lead, writes 'Let's have a conversation about how we could build an OpenOffice.org supplied by Dell product to give your customers what they are asking for.' Demand for open source products on Dell's IdeaStorm web site prompted the letter. A somewhat obvious question is raised: why isn't OpenOffice already available by default on new PC's and Workstations?"
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OpenOffice.org Tries to Woo Dell

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  • default (Score:5, Funny)

    by otacon (445694) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:01AM (#18331419)
    It isn't on there by default, because that would mean people might actually use it...and we can't have people just running around using free software, can we?
    • I remember when StarOffice was installed by default on eMachines computers. No one used it. Instead they pirated MS Office and used that instead. This was just a few years ago too. So people won't necessarily use something just because it's installed by default unless they're familiar with it (ie Windows).
      • by otacon (445694)
        True, but if they are informed that it does the same thing then they would be more likely to use it. Example: Years back my family started using WordPerfect, because it was already there. Granted I informed them they could essentially do the same thing. But you are very right it has a lot to do with being familiar.
      • I remember when StarOffice was installed by default on eMachines computers. No one used it.

        FWIW, StarOffice 5.2 was a POS with some decent technology hidden inside it monolithic interface. Its usability was utterly terrible, and was more of a chore to use than a pleasure. The work done by OpenOffice has changed all that. OOo is often just as pleasent to use, sometimes moreso than Microsoft Office is. It hasn't been growing in popularity quite as fast as FireFox has, but OOo installations are definitely beco

        • If you preinstalled OpenOffice, I guarantee you that most of those customers would use OOo rather than pirating Microsoft Office.


          I wouldn't be too sure of that. In the past few years, Dell did come preinstalled with Wordperfect Office. No one used that either.
    • by westlake (615356)
      It isn't on there by default, because that would mean people might actually use it...and we can't have people just running around using free software, can we?

      Corel worked damn hard to establish WordPerfect as the OEM default - and people still chose to upgrade to Microsoft Office. The "free" bundled office suite always comes across as just another throw-away.

  • by hhlost (757118) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:01AM (#18331423)
    OOo is free, and therefore Dell gets no cut.
    • by synoniem (512936) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:11AM (#18331583)
      To be more accurate: OOo is free, and therefore Dell gets nothing but the support calls and even offshore they want to be paid.
    • by babbling (952366) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:13AM (#18331617)
      That's actually not true. If Dell were to add an option on their website saying "OpenOffice $25", they would be allowed to charge the $25 to bundle OpenOffice with a Dell computer.

      Nothing in the GPL forbids Dell or anyone else for charging money for the software, so Dell wouldn't just "take a cut", they can set the price they like and take 100% of it rather than having to give some of it to Microsoft.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        That's actually not true. If Dell were to add an option on their website saying "OpenOffice $25", they would be allowed to charge the $25 to bundle OpenOffice with a Dell computer.

        Technically true, but to bother supporting it they'd need a given threshold of their customers to choose it, and I'm guessing they don't think they will. Might also be afraid of the public backlash when some idiot consumer reporter at a TV station breaks the big story that Dell is charging customers for something they can downl

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by babbling (952366)
          Why would Dell offer support for OpenOffice? Does Dell offer support for Microsoft Office? As far as I know, Microsoft provides the support for Microsoft Office, and I can't see why Dell would offer support for OpenOffice since they have nothing to do with its development.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by kripkenstein (913150)

            As far as I know, Microsoft provides the support for Microsoft Office, and I can't see why Dell would offer support for OpenOffice since they have nothing to do with its development.

            Dell might want to offer support for OpenOffice for a very good reason - because it makes them money. On the one hand selling Microsoft Office gives Dell a small profit (I presume that nearly all the money goes to Microsoft), and low support costs (they can't be zero, since people will call even if they are immediately redirec

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jesterzog (189797)

        Nothing in the GPL forbids Dell or anyone else for charging money for the software, so Dell wouldn't just "take a cut", they can set the price they like and take 100% of it rather than having to give some of it to Microsoft.

        Not to mention, they can add value to OpenOffice so that the Dell version is worth paying extra for, particularly by embedding all kinds of fancy widgets to direct Dell customers to Dell's certified business partners.

  • Huh... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:01AM (#18331429)
    This is news? Do you think that maybe Dell already knows about OpenOffice? A letter is going to swing the deal? Not likely. Dell is only vaguely interested in Linux, and there are still questions about if that is just the standard ploy to get a better Microsoft deal.

    By the way, I've sent Dell a letter about a little time management application I've been working on for a few years. I'm expecting a reply!!!

    • by zappepcs (820751)
      Whatever happens, this will raise public awareness of OOo by some measure. If only 15% of the public suddenly finds out that there is free software available that does all they need to do, it's a good thing for all. It will also help point out the situation that makes it cheaper for Dell to preload windows than to give away free software. Hopefully consumers will begin to question that and bring to light what MS is still doing to hamstring an entire industry.
      • Yup!

        When my dad bought a new computer, he asked me about buying Microsoft office (or pirating a copy). Instead, I set up OOo for him. He's really happy with it. Open Office shines even better when you aren't using it only to view Microsoft Word docs, but rather authoring from it directly.

        He thanked me and notified me that he loves OO, and has no need to use Microsoft Office.

        For me, the killer app in open office is OODraw. I've used this for creating cards at christmas, and most recently to create a CD L
      • Whatever happens, this will raise public awareness of OOo by some measure.

        I'm not sure how you can say that, since if Dell does not include OpenOffice, which is very likly, "public awareness" via the Dell vector will remail the same, which is none.

        Dell is not interested in OpenOffice. Dell is a for-profit business. OpenOffice offers them nothing. In Dell's mind, it is not a "value added feature."

        Here's why. Very few Dell customers actually want Linux. Legions of Dell customers want Windows. Legions of Del

        • by zappepcs (820751)
          Don't be offended here, but let me tell you what is really ignorant about what you have said.

          >Here's why. Very few Dell customers actually want Linux.
          Because relatively few people know about Linux and what it can mean to them. They only know windows because Apple and MS are the ones with $$$ television advertisements.

          >Legions of Dell customers want Windows.
          Because relatively few people know about Linux and what it can mean to them. They only know windows because Apple and MS are the ones with $$$ tele
  • Here's why (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Asylumn (598576) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:02AM (#18331451)

    why isn't OpenOffice already available by default on new PC's and Workstations?

    Because then customers would have less of an incentive to purchase MS Office. This gives MS a huge incentive to pressure Dell, et al, to not offer alternatives on a windows machine.

    Seems fairly obvious to me.
    • Incidentally, when I got my Dell laptop (...4ish years ago I think) my options on office software were a Corel WordPerfect Suite, MS Works and MS Office variants.

      I had to pick one of them, and the free option was Corel.

      Having not needed a new laptop since then I haven't bothered to see if they changed that. Although by the sounds of the discussion, appears it might have.
  • by oskard (715652) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:04AM (#18331469)
    I thought it said:
    "OpenOffice.org Tries to Doo Well"
  • Umm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by faloi (738831) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:07AM (#18331513)
    why isn't OpenOffice already available by default on new PC's and Workstations?"

    Because your average home user buying an off the shelf PC (regardless of who it's from) has no idea what Open Office is. Even if you provided it as an option, given the choice between a (seemingly) free version of some MS product and Open Office, the average customer would take Open Office. Throw in the bit about most customers expecting to get support from the PC manufacturer for everything that's on there, and you have to talk about training your tech support folks on how to handle Open Office support calls.

    Tech savy users and corporate customers are likely to blow the default image away and replace it with something tweaked to their choosing, so you wouldn't be saving them a tremendous amount of time by having it installed anyway.
    • by bigdavex (155746)

      Because your average home user buying an off the shelf PC (regardless of who it's from) has no idea what Open Office is.

      Dell has an option to include Corel Snapfire Plus. I sincerely doubt that most people have heard of it. Yet there it is.

      Even if you provided it as an option, given the choice between a (seemingly) free version of some MS product and Open Office, the average customer would take Open Office.

      I doubt that. I think most people would perceive that buying the MS product would make it most like

    • by owlnation (858981)

      Because your average home user buying an off the shelf PC (regardless of who it's from) has no idea what Open Office is.

      I'm not sure what a home user needs with any office package. Perhaps that's part of the issue. I see Open Office's main potential customers in the short term being small and medium sized businesses. Then Corporations once smaller companies had been converted.

      Large companies, will get MS Office discounted when they sold their souls setting up their Intranet. No-one much outside of a co

  • A somewhat obvious question is raised: why isn't OpenOffice already available by default on new PC's and Workstations?"

    I would say for the same (or at least closely related and similar) reason that PC's come with and the majority of people want/keep using Windows over other OS choices which are arguably better and just as easy or easier to use. It's what people are familiar with. I'm pretty confident your average joe on the street has heard of MS Office. That same guy probably has not heard of OpenOffice

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mgpeter (132079)

      On top of that, it's still not 100% compatible with MS Office... I frequently have to slightly adjust things converting between OO's .odf and Office's .doc and have had some features of Excel spreadsheets not work in OO. That alone is going to make it unacceptable for use on projects for school or work which are then going to probably be used in MS Office.

      Stop Using the Proprietary MS Formats - The vast majority of people complaining about OOo complain that it doesn't open MS Documents 100% Accurately.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Toby_Tyke (797359)
        Stop Using the Proprietary MS Formats - The vast majority of people complaining about OOo complain that it doesn't open MS Documents 100% Accurately. If you would simply start to use the default file format - ODF you won't have this problem.

        Maybe our places of employment use MS formats. Maybe our customers use MS formats. Most people do. If your customers demand you send them MS office files, what are you going to do?

        I often work from home. Without MS software on my home machine, I would not be able t
      • As soon as you convince my employer, my school, and the local IT headhunters to start using OO instead of MS Word, I'll get right on that. Until then, I'll write anything I need to at home in OO and save to Word format, then take a few seconds at work or school to make sure the formatting is correct before sending it off to anyone of any importance. Unfortunately, we can't expect the general public to be willing to go through those same extra steps just to use a piece of software they've never heard of.
  • by xenocide2 (231786) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:10AM (#18331559) Homepage
    It's not about customer value -- anyone asking for OpenOffice already knows about it and can easily install it. Dell's strategy is to make the cheapest PC's around to bring in customers, then make it as easy as possible to spend more than that. They are not the Wal-Mart of computing. A 30 day Office trial pays Dell. Even so, they want you to buy Office -- they get more money that way. OO.o has no such financial arrangement, and it would be tricky for Dell to attempt to charge customers for it.
    • it would be tricky for Dell to attempt to charge customers for [OpenOffice]

      Tricky how? Legally there is no issue here. The only thing they need to do is set up the support for OpenOffice, as far as I can tell. Or am I missing something else that you intended?
  • Am I the only one who read that and saw "OpenOffice.org Tries to Do Well"?

    May I sew you to your sheets? [wikipedia.org]
  • by bannerman (60282)
    It's simple. Dell computers already come bundled with a more polished suite for free. It may not be as powerful or feature complete but there it is.

    "Microsoft Works 8. DOES NOT INCLUDE MS WORD [Included in Price]"
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Included in price does not mean free. If they had a free alternative, how much would they charge for MS works?
  • A somewhat obvious question is raised: why isn't OpenOffice already available by default on new PC's and Workstations?

    Because Microsoft will give less license discount if they did.
  • If Dell charged for OpenOffice, open-source advocates would scream bloody murder (OMG it's supposed to be free, why does choosing OpenOffice add $50 to the price of a PC?) On the other hand, customers expect whatever comes with their computer to be supported, which costs money. There's also the opportunity cost from OpenOffice cannibalizing sales of the much more profitable MS-Office. Also, they would hurt their relationship with Microsoft. So they can either give it away and lose money, or sell it for

    • ...customers expect whatever comes with their computer to be supported, which costs money.

      Hogwash!

      Try calling Dell and see how much support you get for MS Works.

      If it starts up, they consider their job done.

      If it doesn't start up, they will tell you to wipe and reload from the image.

      If it still doesn't start up, they will RMA the computer and send you a new one.

      That is the complete extent of the application support you will get from Dell.

      The "it costs Dell money to support OOO/Linux" argument is a ti

  • by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@comca ... t minus caffeine> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:23AM (#18331779) Journal
    Why dont you woo Apple (who have a shakey relationship with Microsoft to start)and in return get help for that long promised native OpenOffice version not using java like NeoOffice has to do...

    oh wait, I forgot the guys in charge dont like Apple either.

    • by mgblst (80109)
      Don't worry, I think they are preparing a Letter to Apple as well, right after they finish on the ones to Amiga and the Acorn Arhcimedes. They will really be pulling in the numbers once they convince those 3, probably won't even bother answering the phone calles from Dell.
  • Obvious? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by east coast (590680) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:26AM (#18331815)
    A somewhat obvious question is raised: why isn't OpenOffice already available by default on new PC's and Workstations?

    Obvious? What's obvious is that Dell can make a profit from MS Office. Frankly, if I were a business I would look to the profit aspect first.

    Also consider tech support. I would think that Dell is going to get more support from MS than the OO people when it comes down to wide spread issues involving their product. Tech support is doubtlessly a large chunk of Dell's overhead. The better support from their software vendors the less that overhead will be. That's a big plus and anyone who's taken business-101 type classes can tell you this.

    Not to mention that free software still has a stigma about it. This isn't likely to go away anytime soon.
    • by ivan256 (17499)

      Not to mention that free software still has a stigma about it. This isn't likely to go away anytime soon.


      In technical terms, that stigma is called "Zero marketing budget".

    • by pembo13 (770295)
      It seems to me that Dell is allowed to sell vanilla OO.org for any price they want.
  • by Bullfish (858648) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:28AM (#18331845)
    That will go over with Dell like a pregnant woman doing a pole vault... No percentage (that they would get with any other commercial office product) means no profit...
  • by ProppaT (557551) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:29AM (#18331857) Homepage
    It would have made since for PC builders to supply OO on new computers last year. It would have given the user added value for free. It's a great suite of tools. Even though I have Office at work, there's I still use OO for certain applications.

    The problem with OO right now is that, even though OO is a great substitute and can use Office files...it CANT use Office 2007 files. People are going to be saving files with .docx by default in 2007. This creates a huge compatibility void until someone creates an open source DTD for OO to open and render .docx files. No matter how good OO gets, Office is THE standard. If it can't keep up with Office compatibility (and I'm sure it eventually will catch up), it's about as useful as WordPerfect (i.e., it's fine as long as you don't have to use anybody elses files).
  • Not only are all the financial and business reasons offered by readers here probably completely true, I'd bet they also don't want the support calls. It doesn't matter what you tell people about what you will or won't support -- I would imagine Dell gets hundreds of calls a day about something not working right in the pre-installed copy of Word someone bought with their Dell machine. I wouldn't think it would be worth it to either train support staff to provide basic support for OpenOffice or even to spend
  • Sounds like the lead in to one of those unspeakable folk songs where every other line is "hey, nonny,nonny oh".
  • by malevolentjelly (1057140) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:47AM (#18332099) Journal
    Maybe because Microsoft Office is a superior product. They don't offer beta versions of MS Office either. If customers want to use OpenOffice they can download. In most cases, it's got critical deficiencies that will confuse most customers. I've tried the ol' OpenOffice switcheroo on non-open-source-enthusiasts before. They were basically confused and frustrated with OpenOffice and why it didn't do the same things.

    Microsoft Office is a lot more intelligent than people give it credit for.
    • by nagora (177841)
      If customers want to use OpenOffice they can download.

      But they won't, regardless of quality. If users just downloaded the best free option off the net then no one would ever have to design their webpages to allow for IE's quirks ever again.

      MS's entire business is founded on the fact that 90%+ of people use whatever software that comes with their machine; Office suites, OS's, browsers, whatever.

      In most cases, it's got critical deficiencies that will confuse most customers.

      Deficiencies or differences (

  • by Yaddoshi (997885) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:49AM (#18332137)
    The company I work for always adds OpenOffice to every new PC sold by default, because getting OEM Office drives the price up by almost $200 (and our price is already higher than Office Depot, Office Max, Best Buy and Walmart on comparable PCs of the main brands). I find, however, that people who are comfortable using MS Office don't like OpenOffice, just like people who are comfortable with Corel WordPerfect typically don't like MS Word. You like the program you are most familiar with, even if other programs do the same task better. Nobody likes having to learn to do the same thing in a different manner. I still tie my shoes the same way I taught myself to as a child, even though the normal way to tie one's shoes tends to keep them tied longer than my method.

    With that in mind I find it highly amusing that MS Office 2007 requires a substantial learning curve before most users can become efficient with it. Nice job yet again, Microsoft. Justify the massive pricetag of your newest product that is nothing more than a minor upgrade with a facelift by including an interface overhaul.

    I have customers that are still using MS Office 97, purchased almost ten years ago. Why? Because for them, it still works just fine.
    • I have customers that are still using MS Office 97, purchased almost ten years ago. Why? Because for them, it still works just fine.

      It still works fine because, despite what everyone is trying to sell you, methods of creating and dealing with "documents" haven't changed in many years. The feature list wars were over a decade ago, and everybody won.

      Unfortunately for you and software vendors, until they get you to buy it by subscription they have to reengineer the whole thing every few years to get you to

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @12:11PM (#18333853)
    Considering that Dell already loads the latest version of MSOffice on their Dimensions even when you don't order it, and it takes up disc space and nags you to activate it in trial mode, or buy and put in your key, and causes update hassles with your older, legal version of MSOffice that you transfered from your old machine to you new one, hell yes, Dell could afford to include OO on the hard drive.
  • by codemachine (245871) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @12:36PM (#18334265)
    Wouldn't StarOffice from Sun make a lot more sense in this case? Dell can take a cut of the price, and Sun provides support for the product.

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