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Why Microsoft Is So Scared of OpenOffice 421

Posted by samzenpus
from the run-for-the-hills dept.
GMGruman writes "A recent Microsoft video on OpenOffice is naively seen by some as validating the open source tool. As InfoWorld's Savio Rodrigues shows, the video is really a hatchet job on OpenOffice. But why is Microsoft so intent on damaging the FOSS desktop productivity suite, which has just a tiny market share? Rodrigues figured out the real reason by noting who Microsoft quoted to slam OpenOffice: businesses in emerging markets such as Eastern Europe that aren't already so invested in Office licenses and know-how. In other words, the customers Microsoft doesn't have yet and now fears it never will."
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Why Microsoft Is So Scared of OpenOffice

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  • Less piracy from (Score:5, Insightful)

    by future assassin (639396) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @11:25PM (#33929080) Homepage
    younger people means less MS Office users when those people grow up which means smaller market share whether by install base or brand name recognition. If I was in my teens/20's right now and I had an option for running pirated PS or GIMP I'd go with GIMP. Same with office I'd rather go and download OO right off the site then spend days trying of warez versions which could possible have infected my computer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Gimp used to be cool, 10 years ago. Now Gimp sucks, at least on the Mac. I can get better (if not more processor-efficient) functionality from Inkscape, also for free.

      It's amazing to me. Today's mac-version Gimp almost seems designed to make things difficult. 6 different select tools, and not one of them lets you just select a single object.
      • by 0123456 (636235)

        It's amazing to me. Today's mac-version Gimp almost seems designed to make things difficult.

        I believe you'll find that's true of all versions of Gimp, not just the one for Macs :).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by abigsmurf (919188)
          Some of the basic bugs and design issues in GIMP (for Windows) have me tearing my hair out.

          -Disappearing mouse pointer in the save dialogue when I have to click a random area to get it to re-appear (and hope I don't press a button doing so).
          -When I've selected the file type in 'Save As' that's the file type I want to save as, I shouldn't have to retype the extension.
          -Restoring from the task bar or switching between windows is a buggy mess. Sometimes the GIMP window appears/goes to the front, most of
    • Re:Less piracy from (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dhalka226 (559740) on Monday October 18, 2010 @12:54AM (#33929484)

      And you would still be in the minority.

      I know a lot of people in their teens or twenties who are extremely interested in, shall we say, the visual arts. They love making music videos and video editing, logo design, website design, etc. One of them is finishing up a degree in marketing degree, the other is finishing up high school now and is already accepted into a design school, another is younger than them (friends of brothers etc) yet highly interested in web development. Never has the word "GIMP" entered any of their vocabularies. Never.

      OpenOffice they are familiar with its existence, which it still didn't stop them from, for example, going out and buying the Mac version of Office when they bought their cool new Macs a year or so ago despite recommendations from me that they could at least wait and get by with OO for a bit while their wallets recovered from the purchase. And I don't mean clicked the "Sure, sell me Office too!" box, I mean literally drove to the store and bought it. (I was visiting one of them at the time.)

      Yes, it's anecdotal but it's also real. They don't care about ideologies; they want to use the tools they will use as professionals, and that is determined by business and not their own inclinations. So long as kids (and schools) continue to look to business to see what they should be acquainted with, businesses will have a ready-trained new workforce and little incentive to move away from what they all know.

      • Also (Score:3, Informative)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770)

        Many of the open source tools just aren't up to par. Open Office may be for many things. I am not a serious Office user, I just do basic word processing and the like so I'm not in a position to say. It has a good interface though, so that alone puts it ahead of many.

        However for a lot of programs, particularly those in the media area, they just do not compete with commercial software. I've found this in video editing. I tried to do it on Linux and just couldn't. None of the open source tools would do the tri

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by flappinbooger (574405)
          I also tried to edit video on FOSS software once. I completed one simple project. It was like going naked down a slide lined with razor blades. Painful, but I made it and have the scars to prove it.

          Cinelerra was the program. Now, the latest Ubuntu comes with a decent FOSS video package and there are a few out there now.

          By decent I mean I've actually used one of them to do a quick and dirty very simple video and I didn't want to kill something afterwards.

          Also - different topic - I gave a presentation once
      • Re:Less piracy from (Score:5, Interesting)

        by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Monday October 18, 2010 @02:22AM (#33929796)

        I went to an animation/film/design school. I know of one person who used an open source program instead of pirating or buying a student copy of the commercial packages. But he had been using it since Jr. High and is a ideologue--and even then he would admit it sucked for actual work but liked to poke at it and try to improve it in his spare time. And even he wouldn't touch Gimp with a 10 foot pole.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 17, 2010 @11:34PM (#33929118)

    Microsoft using the old "total cost of ownership" line is what they usually use on customers.

    It is easy enough to test which one results in more support calls. Have some departments use Microsoft Office and have other departments use OpenOffice and track who asks for more help.

    Oracle is in the enterprise space with their database products and Microsoft knows they will push OpenOffice to try to keep Microsoft out.

    Having customers that don't need to talk to Microsoft is what Oracle wants.

    • by ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) * on Sunday October 17, 2010 @11:54PM (#33929232)

      The thing is universities need to push more training of using open source alternatives.

      The fact still remains: You will find more people who have used MS office than people who use OpenOffice. More people in the pool = less wage required to hire if you are an employer. That is where "total cost of ownership" comes from.

      For example, in our university, most LAMP sysadmins are full time staff which you have to pay at least $45 - 55K per annum, while most WISA (Windows, IIS, SQL Server, ASP.NET) sysadmins are students which cost much less (somewhere between $13 - $18 an hour + tuition waiver if you are grad student).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by orin (113079)
        Windows administrators are cheaper because Microsoft pursued a strategy of ensuring that there was a training infrastructure for their products. There is a whole ecosystem of books, online material and courses created by Microsoft to facilitate people learning their product. No such infrastructure exists for open source products. It may not even be possible to create such an infrastructure.
      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        For example, in our university, most LAMP sysadmins are full time staff which you have to pay at least $45 - 55K per annum, while most WISA (Windows, IIS, SQL Server, ASP.NET) sysadmins are students which cost much less (somewhere between $13 - $18 an hour + tuition waiver if you are grad student).

        Somehow I have the feeling that such a full time sysadmin can give you better quality work than part-time students. If only because they know the system, they know it's specifics, and half year later if there is a problem the same person is still around to help fix it, and they likely can fix it quicker because they have the experience with the system at hand, and likely with other systems previously in their career. Troubleshooting is more art than science, so experience is king.

        OTOH hiring a new student

    • It is easy enough to test which one results in more support calls. Have some departments use Microsoft Office and have other departments use OpenOffice and track who asks for more help.

      Thats about as unscientific as you can get. You don't take into consideration the relative use of office suites between the departments, the training and skill levels of the individuals etc. Not necessarily saying your conclusion is wrong, but even if you were to carry out such a test it really wouldn't provide a whole l
  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @11:46PM (#33929174)
    The OpenOffice market share is not bad at all: http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Market_Share_Analysis [openoffice.org]

    And, Ballmer has the right to be concerned about the 300 million pc market is eaten by both Apple and Linux [eweek.com]:

    "I think depending on how you look at it, Apple has probably increased its market share over the last year or so by a point or more. And a point of market share on a number that's about 300 million is interesting. It's an interesting amount of market share, while not necessarily being as dramatic as people would think, but we're very focused in on both Apple as a competitor, and Linux as a competitor."

    and

    I assume we're going to see Android-based, Linux-based laptops, in addition to phones. We'll see Google more as a competitor in the desktop operating system business than we ever have before. The seams between what's a phone operating system and a PC operating system will change, and so we have ramped the investment in the client operating system.

    And, OpenOffice runs on Android mobile phones: http://www.alwaysonpc.com/aboutOpenOffice.php [alwaysonpc.com]. That is something for Microsoft to be sleepless about.

    OpenOffice on Android mobile phones. Mmmmmm. Sweet.

    • Against Apple, what they have to fear is iWork. Honestly, the past two years I've been using iWork for 90% of my business needs and now I use it on my iPad. But what really hurt MS Office on Mac was the removal of VB Macro support. I had to keep a machine with Office 2004 just incase someone sent me an excel file with macros. The only application that MS Office still has as a killer app is PowerPoint. For presentations PowerPoint for Mac is still king in my book. I can get by with Keynote, but I still

      • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday October 18, 2010 @01:09AM (#33929550)

        The only application that MS Office still has as a killer app is PowerPoint.

        Indeed, Powerpoint has probably killed more people than any other Microsoft application (Columbia's last crew, for example). I'm not sure that's an argument for using it though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Stratoukos (1446161)

        The only application that MS Office still has as a killer app is PowerPoint. For presentations PowerPoint for Mac is still king in my book.

        Really? I'm not in a position to judge, since I'm not a heavy PowerPoint/Keynote user, but my experience is the exact opposite. I use Keynote maybe 5 times a year for presentations not longer than 10-15 slides and I've found Keynote to be much better for my needs. Since I don't require any of the advanced features, the aesthetics of the default templates and the fact that keynote behaves like a Mac application are enough for me to use it. Same thing with Word/Pages. Very casual user, so the little things wo

    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday October 18, 2010 @01:08AM (#33929544) Journal

      And, OpenOffice runs on Android mobile phones: http://www.alwaysonpc.com/aboutOpenOffice.php [alwaysonpc.com]

      This is highly misleading. In fact, you just wasted about 3 minutes of my time claiming that, because at first I was all "oh wow! need to get that right away". But what they do instead is host a virtual machine for you "in the cloud", and provide you with a VNC client to connect to it. Needless to say, this is 1) online only, and you really need WiFi or 3G, 2) eats bandwidth like cookies, and 3) still slow. No wonder it's rated 3 stars on the Market (with comments along the lines of all three points)! And they want $20 for that... no thanks.

      If someone did a proper port of OO.org to Android (redoing the UI etc), I'd gladly pay $100 for that. But this is mostly useless.

  • by brainscauseminds (1865962) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @11:50PM (#33929208) Homepage
    Ahh, invest some time and learn for example following tools: Tex/Lyx for documents, presentations, papers etc R/ggplot2 for data manipulation, tables and plotting Python for other things you want to compute you get quality stuff and you never want to use any office suit again
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by arivanov (12034)

      Been there, done that. You also forgot to add that with all of these you can keep clean revision and change control.

      The problem however is that you are not alone. There is usually an organisation around you which cannot be bothered. Even if you are "alone" as a lone software contractor you have customers who want to be bothered even less. On top of that you have an army of buzzword bingo players, sorry recruiters, that will not accept a CV in anything but MSF Word.

      So I have to admit - from writing everythin

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wvmarle (1070040)

      Not all people have the mindset to do programming. Actually I'd argue most people don't. I have tried TeX and it feels like programming to me. Way too big a learning curve when >95% of what I do is typing out invoices, one-page letters, and the like... even though it may give you great reports and so. If ever I have to write a report again I may consider learning TeX.

      For everything else, OO is doing just fine.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zippthorne (748122)

        You shouldn't be using TeX unless you're a programmer. If you just want to bang out some documents, you should be using LaTeX, which is TeX, where programmers have already set up a bunch of useful macros so you can focus on what you actually want to do.

        Or, LyX. I have not found a better program for typesetting scientific papers. Even emacs with the latex-preview feature installed pales in comparison. There is simply no more efficient equation editor on the market than the one built-in to LyX. Sciword i

  • Classic "skills" FUD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Compaqt (1758360) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @11:53PM (#33929226) Homepage

    The MS video features this gem: "New employees lacked OpenOffice.org applications' use skills that significantly increased employees' adaptation period and adversely affected their operational efficiency." -- Igor Gentosh, Head of Systems Integration Department, Kredobank JSC

    Uhhmm ... so is that the reason you went and changed the entire interface in Office 2007 to the ribbon? If anything OO preserves skill investments.

    OO is basically Office97+, which was a great version. OO is just fine for the non-templated letters that pass for "Office suite" use in most offices. Not that it doesn't have better templates (and page formats, too).

    The only major deficiency is the non user-friendly macro system.

  • by Dracos (107777) on Monday October 18, 2010 @12:05AM (#33929282)

    Since Oracle seems determined to destroy OpenOffice themselves.

    • by rahvin112 (446269) on Monday October 18, 2010 @12:25AM (#33929358)

      Nothing to worry about. Some very brave people have Forked it and created LibreOffice to replace it. Given the more flexible source contribution rules the development rate already exceeds that of OO.org. It's only a matter of time before Oracle isn't even relevant anymore in relation to office software. It's unfortunate that they didn't accept the LibreOffice request to coordinate development and direction as it will sideline them even more. Oh well.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Sideline them ... how, exactly? Seriously, this time last year Oracle didn't have an office suite and now they have a fully featured, fully developed office suite with full copyright assignment. How often does that really happen? How many fully developed office suites are there in the world, especially ones where you can buy the fully copyright to?

        Oracle haven't been sidelined at all, they've barely started.
  • What support? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hobbes64 (1106381) on Monday October 18, 2010 @12:08AM (#33929294)
    A few of the quotes in the article are about poor support of open source products. But Microsoft don't have very good support either. Depending on license you get limited support or have to pay per incident. You usually just end up searching the internet to solve your problem whichever product you use. So what am I paying for again?
    • Re:What support? (Score:5, Informative)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday October 18, 2010 @08:50AM (#33931994) Homepage

      Yeah, I've always thought about this when I hear that line from Microsoft about "poor support".

      I've been working in IT for 15 years, and I've worked in a few different companies of different size and in different industries. I have never been aware of anyone getting support from Microsoft beyond searching their website knowledge base to clarify obscure error messages.

      The only times I have called Microsoft for anything (or heard of anyone else doing it) was for 1 purpose: product activation. I've had copies of Windows and Office spuriously decide that they weren't legitimate, and I had to call Microsoft to get them to fix it. So the only use Microsoft's support personnel have been to me is when Microsoft broke my computer on purpose, and I had to get them to undo it.

  • Blood from a turnip. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zenwarrior (81710) on Monday October 18, 2010 @12:42AM (#33929432)
    The bottom line is whatever Microsoft says or attempts as a fear tactic, it won't make any difference whatsoever to a very large number of those consumers. They simply cannot afford Office at any price Microsoft would offer it--other than free. When you have no money, free (or theft*) is the only alternative. Given that reality, Microsoft is jousting at windmills and trying to squeeze blood from a turnip.
    * Might we next be seeing not-so-subtle threats in those emerging markets about using illegal copies of Office? Betcha we will.
  • Comments (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zeraeiro (946048) on Monday October 18, 2010 @12:58AM (#33929508)
    Have you checked the comments on the right side here: http://www.microsoft.com/showcase/en/US/details/faaf9eb8-77c6-4bed-bc08-c069a7bfbb04 [microsoft.com] Let's tell MS what we think.
  • The emergent markets will probably use the last version of Office, as soon as is launched, since on these markets warez is rampant. These markets are more slaves of Microsoft than our market.

  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@ l y n x.bc.ca> on Monday October 18, 2010 @01:31AM (#33929614) Journal
    When I started working at my last job, we were initially using Openoffice for almost everything except for any documents that needed to go to clients, because documents that we created with Openoffice would not reliably open with the same formatting by clients who were using Microsoft office, particularly if indentation or outlining was used. Programmers such as myself did not generally need to have Office installed, since virtually all of the documents created by programmers were intended for internal only. Ultimately, however, it was realized that even documents that might initially be thought to be internal-only were often needed to be looked over by clients for review, and so eventually everybody had to install Office and use it for everything, simply so that we could compatibly communicate with the company's clients.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by randallman (605329)

      This is and will be true for any two different programs using non-native (more so for proprietary) formats. Word Perfect -> Word. Word -> Open Office. Even Word '97 to Word 2007. You've hit on one of the reasons that standard formats are needed.

      However, if formatting is that important, consider if you should even be sending word processor documents. Maybe you should be sending PDFs for review. Or maybe you're doing something that requires desktop publishing software.

    • by grahamm (8844) <gmurray@webwayone.co.uk> on Monday October 18, 2010 @07:00AM (#33930996) Homepage

      When I started working at my last job, we were initially using Openoffice for almost everything except for any documents that needed to go to clients, because documents that we created with Openoffice would not reliably open with the same formatting by clients who were using Microsoft office, particularly if indentation or outlining was used.

      Unless things have changed somewhat, neither will even the same version of MS Office always show consistent formatting. If the document author is using 'printer X' and the document is opened by someone using 'printer Y', then the whole formatting can change.

  • by RomulusNR (29439) on Monday October 18, 2010 @03:46AM (#33930160) Homepage

    A recurring theme in the criticisms -- perhaps the most painfully misanthropic -- is that, since staff are trained to use MS Office, they simply can't figure out Open Office, and everyone who's switched back to MSO from OOO has seen support time and staff frustration drop like a rock. (Of course, going from MS Office 2k3's traditional interface to MS Office 2k8's "Ribbon" caused absolutely no confusion at all!)

    But why is this? Why are people trained eat the bread and sip the MS Kool Aid so utterly helpless when faced with an alternative that doesn't look the same?

    Well, it's because people with minimal computer skills teach other people with no computer skills that, in order to make this word look blue, you click this button in this place. Not "look for a color changer and select blue". No, it has to be under THIS menu, with THAT name, and looks like THIS button.

    We don't teach people how to use computers or even software. We teach them very specific, contextless mundane steps.

    What saddens me most is that I was able to document this twelve years ago [neu.edu] and it's still the same today.

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