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Is OpenOffice.org a Threat? Microsoft Thinks So 467

Posted by Soulskill
from the peter-those-are-cheerios dept.
Glyn Moody writes "Most people regard OpenOffice.org as a distant runner-up to Microsoft Office, and certainly not a serious rival. Microsoft seems to feel otherwise, judging by a new job posting on its site for a 'Linux and Open Office Compete Lead.' According to this, competing with both GNU/Linux and OpenOffice.org is 'one of the biggest issues that is top of mind' for no less a person than Steve Ballmer. Interestingly, a key part of this position is 'engaging with Open Source communities and organizations' — which suggests that Microsoft's new-found eagerness to 'engage' with open source has nothing to do with a real desire to reach a pacific accommodation with free software, but is simply a way for Microsoft to fight against it from close up, and armed with inside knowledge."
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Is OpenOffice.org a Threat? Microsoft Thinks So

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @09:31AM (#30592490)

    Odd... I use OO to manage over 1,000,000 items for an online retail business, and the majority are stored in csv files. Works fine for me.

  • by MathFox (686808) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @09:41AM (#30592554)
    I have a program that generates CSV output, for import into a spreadsheet. Open Office Calc creates the sheet I expect (slowly but correct). However, Excel sees it fit to mess op the data; it arbitrarily breaks long lines mid-field, creating a mess that requires more time to clean up than waiting for OOo to import correctly.

    N.B. OOo suffices for most of my business correspondence; I prefer (La)TeX/LyX for the more scientific documents.

  • by DrXym (126579) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @09:42AM (#30592558)
    ...its GUI is more like Microsoft Office pre-2007 than Microsoft Office 2007 is, and I have never gotten used to the 2007 interface.

    Ooo has an incredibly ugly UI and some glaring usability issues. I think it would win many more converts if it focused on usability for its next release even if it never added a single new feature. Drag the UI kicking and screaming into the 21st century and smooth some of the rough edges in the process. From my own experience, I tolerate the UI simply because the suite is free and has some excellent functionality like Print to PDF built-in, but I reckon tasks like creating tables, document outline mode and diagrams take me a good 2-3x as long as they do than in MS Word.

  • Duh, of course (Score:3, Informative)

    by ewe2 (47163) <(ewetoo) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @09:43AM (#30592574) Homepage Journal

    Check the tables at the end of this Comes exhibit [groklaw.net], its Linux/OO (when it was still StarOffice) in every region. Because the target is future developers and government contracts, obviously.

  • by bignetbuy (1105123) <r0ck@operam a i l.com> on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @09:43AM (#30592576) Journal

    For years, Microsoft has raked in money with Office. It's been THE leading revenue generator for ages with $4.4 billion in 3Q 2009. Office and related business products bring in more money than their Server/OS division. However, that number is trending down to the tune of almost 500 million from the same time last year.

    Maybe it's just the recession. Maybe it was the Vista impact. However, the decline is noticeable.

    Source: MS Annual Reports and Earnings Releases

  • by gregarican (694358) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @09:51AM (#30592636) Homepage

    I've recommended OO for a fair amount of home users who are casual users of office productivity software. For those folks it's _okay_ and fits their needs. Albeit the OO suite isn't lickety-split fast in terms of launch and whatnot for "Joe Six Pack" you can't beat free for someone who's looking to type up a quick letter, create a quick budget spreadsheet, or whip up a simple school presentation.

    That being said, I've also tried implementing OO for my business users, in cases where their new PC's didn't come pre-loaded with Microsoft Office. I would preface their introduction to OO by mentioning that most of the familar menu commands and navigational elements were practically identical. A few weeks later I had no choice but to ante up and purchase full versions of Microsoft Office. Power users in a business environment required elements outside the scope of "Joe Six Pack." Anything from VBA to macros to other features weren't available or else didn't work as expected. And yeah, having budgeted expense goals had me wanting to purchase more Microsoft Office licenses like I'd want a hole in the head. :-/

    And I know there are navigational and feature issues upgrading users from Office 2003 to 2007. I know with a mixed version environment opening documents is a PITA, and saving documents can result in formatting FUBAR's. Frankly I am dreading when I myself have to make the jump. That is almost as daunting as trying to migrate my power users at work to OO. Still all things taken equal it apparently will be awhile until OO is really an equal competitor, although it's closer than it was back in the days with Sun's Staroffice 5.x and whatnot.

    Perhaps Microsoft is just keeping OO in its rearview mirror to protect its interests. Although the hints of Microsoft's covert infiltration into FOSS circles (while supposedly doing so for collaborative purposes) reeks of insidiousness. Now the cat's out of the bag I wonder how many FOSS projects will welcome them?

  • by Bandman (86149) <bandman@NOsPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @09:59AM (#30592710) Homepage

    An interestingly enough, that 1% of the people drive the continual development of those advanced tools.

    I don't think it's that 99% of people don't use them, I think it's that 99% of documents don't use them, but for the ones that do, they're very important.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:07AM (#30592782)

    No, he didn't. Please revise the rest of your post according to your corrected information.

  • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:12AM (#30592834)

    My 5 year old niece uses W2007, how hard can it be?

    This comment you are replying to is not how hard it is, especially not to a newcomer as you niece, but about familiarity.

    One of the key arguments against MS Office alternatives prior to Office2007 was the inconvenience, and possible financial costs, of retraining for people already familiar with Office. It wasn't that the alternatives were harder to use (Office was no paragon of truly intuitive design and neither were the alternatives so the difference in that respect was a close to naught as makes not odds), it was that they were different. Pro MS commenters quietly dropped the argument shortly before Office 2007 arrived and the same argument is now being landed on the newer MS products by promoters of alternatives.

    I've not used Office 2007 enough to form a definite opinion though I suspect I won't particularly care either way - if it does the job without being too irritating I'll use what-ever tool I have available. I use Office 2003 those few times I need such a thing at work (I'm a developer/DBa/SysAdmin at a small company so have little time to use office applications even when I would want to (documentation and test plans usually falling to someone else with some guidance and later editing from myself and others in my position, and documentation intended for users and/or trainers is definitely better prepared by people not like me) and OO.o for personal stuff (both on my main home PC and netbook). I have encountered Office 2007 at work, but only briefly. I know people who do use it regularly though and their opinions range from love to hate covering everything between, and there seems to be little correlation (after the initial training/retraining period) between the sort of person (in terms of their overall techie-ness and level of previous experience with such applications) and which end of the spectrum they sit closet to - so I suspect that in the long run it simply comes down to difficult-to-objetify personal preference.

  • our big barrier (Score:4, Informative)

    by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:16AM (#30592864) Homepage Journal

    I work at a medium size non-profit, and a couple of years ago I tried to get all of us to change to oo.org. I still use it for all my own use instead of ms office but everyone else rebelled and I had to drop it as an idea.

    Like I said, it's been a couple of years now, and when we tried it what basically killed the whole thing is its problem doing mail merges. Arguably it had a BETTER interface to databases than any office product, but the problem is that everyone here has no technical inclination except for me and it requires thought. Plus back in version 2 it was buggy and it wouldn't match up formatting correctly. At lot of the research I did at the time pretty much seemed to indicate that the oo.org staff didn't care much about getting mail merges to work and it wasn't much a priority.

    Maybe someone here can bring me up to date on any progress in this area. I hope that at some point oo.org can provide a really simple mail merge "wizard" (I hate that term) that works with spreadsheets that the plebeians can understand along with a database interface that can give programs like Crystal Reports a run for its money...

  • by DrXym (126579) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:19AM (#30592912)
    I frequently hear the "print-to-pdf" feature touted as a major advantageous feature of Ooo - but with the wide availability of pdf 'printer' programs I don't see this as a feature at all. A separately installed pdf-printer program is available to all other programs (print to pdf from esoteric scientific program, notepad, browser, whatever) instead of tying the feature into Ooo itself. In fact, this seems contrary to the mentality of most programming (and by extension, to the open source movement) logics - aren't we supposed to want a single copy of code that can be called by any program, rather than code living in a walled garden that is replicated in each program?

    I'm aware of PDF printers and I use them, but none of them are as simple to use. The one built into OpenOffice works with a single click a button, and a file dialog. That's it. Most PDF drivers lead you through 2 or 3 dialogs and fail to pick up the document metadata or hinting stuff like column flow because they're being called as if they're printers. The Impress app also exports presentations as Shockwave Flash files which is also a similarly excellent feature. It would be great if Ooo exported into more formats, things like EPUB for example.

    It certainly doesn't stop you adding a PDF printer driver (such as PDFCreator on Win32) and using it from other apps though.

  • by gbutler69 (910166) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:24AM (#30592988) Homepage

    OO does a better job, but, still not correct. GNUMeric does no better. They all fundamentally do the wrong thing. Here is what they do wrong. Lets say I have the following CSV: Smith,Joe,E,121 Mockingbird Lane,Metropolis,BS,(330)555-1212,0023456789

    Now, the last field there is an ID number. The zeroes are significant. All of the above spreadsheets will import that as a number and drop the leading zeroes. FAIL!

  • by frangalista (1297219) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:25AM (#30592990)
    The one drawback that I see for a PDF printer driver is that it cannot preserve hyperlinks within the document. The reason for this is that the printer driver has to implement the GDI interface which is all about drawing shapes and knows nothing about what those shapes represent. So, while the driver may faithfully represent the content of the document, it loses much with respect to meta content such as hyperlinks. The intrinisic converter does not suffer from this because it is rendering the PDF directly from the document. Properly executed, this should always produce a more satisfying effect.
  • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:28AM (#30593040) Journal

    1. I gave one specific example so my post wouldn't be 1000 words. I don't have time for that at 8 AM on a work day.

    It was nothing but an example of user error.

    2. If a piece of software is a "threat" to Microsoft Office, then it better function like people who use Microsoft Office every day expect it to function. Resizing all the cells at once is B A S I C functionality, not some out of the way item that should be buried four levels down in the tree.

    I just opened OpenOffice 3.1 Calc, a piece of software I rarely use. I entered some data into the first row, selected all the columns and was able to resise all the columns at once. This is exactly the same thing I would do in Excel. If you just select the cells, it doesn't work. Perhaps you're just use to that working from whatever version of Excel you're using, but it's quite clear to me that you simply didn't try very hard.

    3. The general public (and I don't fall into that category) won't even give it as much time as I did.

    The general public don't know or care how to resize all the cells at once.

    4. As far as PEBKAC, get real.

    Dude, you just didn't try to solve your problem. You assumed that an obscure formating trick that works in one Spreadsheet works exactly the same way in another. It's not Open Office Excel. It's Open Office Calc. It took me less than 30 seconds to solve your problem. Mind you I'm running on a Core 2 Duo, not some netbook that can't even run MS Office. This wasn't some weird I'm an Excel user who can count the number of times I've played with Calc on 2 hands, so this is hardly some unintuitive obscure reference I'm telling you to dig up.

    Definitely PEBKAC.

  • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:29AM (#30593046)

    which suggests that Microsoft's new-found eagerness to 'engage' with open source has nothing to do with a real desire to reach a pacific accommodation with free software, but is simply a way for Microsoft to fight against it from close up, and armed with inside knowledge.

    There are many reasons to acknowledge a threat, and I'm not sure getting up close and personal is the tree that they are barking up here.

    If Microsoft were to go around saying they they had no threats worth considering it would look like they have little competition and bring them under greater scrutiny from a monopoly policing point of view. Also such hubris would look iffy to current and potential inverters - investing in a company that is, or seems to be, resting on its laurels is not a good long-term strategy especially in a market where there are alternatives currently available (whether they are acknowledged by said company or not).

    Ignoring the more cynical interpretations above for a moment: knowing the competition is important to any business. Whatever your opinion of the strengths (absolute or relative to other products) of OO.o it is a competitor in that particular market and MS would be foolish not to recognise that and be seen to be appropriately aware of the situation.

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:33AM (#30593104) Homepage
    OO has a Windows option to preload some bits. The difference is it mentions this and asks you if you want to do it where as MS Office just shoves some bit into your startup folder.
  • by sznupi (719324) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:45AM (#30593244) Homepage

    One? From what I can see it's usually more like zero advanced features. Choosing font/etc. while typing, exclusively using Enter and Space for formatting, sometimes Tab; getting lost with punctuations, never even heard of styles - that's the usual state of Word proficiency (and those people put familiarity with it into their CV...)

    Something between Wordpad and Abiword is enough for them.

  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:51AM (#30593318)

    That summary was the most biased, paranoid rambling that I've ever seen. You might as well followed it up with a paragraph about how Microsoft uses those little plastic strips in $20 bills to track you when you go through airport scanners, so they know whether to equip your plane with chemtrail equipment before redirecting it to land in the secret tunnel between Washington D.C. and Area 51.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:51AM (#30593320) Homepage

    "Firefox doesn't already know that CSV should be tied to OO? "

    Firefox knows more than you do. For example it knows that the csv extension should not automatically be tied to OpenOffice, since you may not want to run Open Office just to view a .csv file. Neither Firefox, nor any other software, can save you from your own ignorance. In other words, you're fscked.

    "So I got a netbook for my wife for Christmas and the Dell 10v I got for $266 comes with Microsoft Works--which unfortunately does not, well, 'work' all that well."

    WTF! Didn't anyone tell it that it is from Microsoft, and it "just works"? I'm curious, does anything work after you get your hands on it?

    "Takes a long fucking time to open OO. I mean a LONG time."

    It opens in no time for me. Maybe you are using Windows and need to get a real OS? See also this posts subject line.

  • by quantumplacet (1195335) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:56AM (#30593384)

    Not really gonna weigh in either way here, but Office 2007 has a free plugin from Microsoft that lets you print to PDF and it does preserve links.

  • Of course... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Junta (36770) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @11:35AM (#30594080)

    All spreadsheets feel the need to fubar csv data.

    If you have 0002, most assume you mean '2', assuming you must have accidentally put three zeroes in.

    If I put in a slot/port number for a wiring chart (i.e. slot 5, port 2 as 5/2), it assumes it must have been a date and tags on the current year (incidentally, even if they *were* correct in guessing it to be a year, how the hell can they assume the date is the current year? Who knows when the CSV was created, this is arbitrarily adding more precision to a value than it originally contained).

    Often times, for CSV data, it's best to throw up your hands and use a text editor because spreadsheet apps all try to be 'too smart' about the task.

  • by mjwx (966435) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @11:06PM (#30602402)

    OpenOffice.org is a threat? I do not think so and here's why:

    1: It looks aged compared to its counterpart from Microsoft

    2: Still takes a while to load and looks ugly!

    3: It's not as featured as Microsoft Office. Those who profess that the 80%/20% rule is what matters do not have a clue on how human beings behave.

    4: Most educational institutions and workplaces still accept Microsoft Office as the "default" office suite...even for editing simple documents.

    5: Its development is just too slow! Compare that with Google's Android. If OpenOffice development was at just half the speed of Android, things would be different.

    All this is rendered useless by the real reason, people are finding it easier to put up with OO.o's inconsistencies with MS Office then they are to pirate MS office. Plain and simple.

    Most people don't care about looks, most people already think MS office is as slow, 90% people know how to use less then 10% of the features in MS office. The vast majority of people just want to be able to open a document or spreadsheet, make a few changes and save it. Maybe they'll bold the headline or use a few basic math functions E.G (=C9-(D12*E12)) but that's it. The harder and slower MS makes pirating office the more appealing OO.o becomes. Most people I know have already switched to it at home as it does everything they need at home.

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