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Microsoft Admits OpenOffice.org Is a Contender 480

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the first-you-ignore-them dept.
ChiefMonkeyGrinder writes "Microsoft has unwittingly admitted that OpenOffice.org is a rival, by launching a three-minute video of customers explaining why they switched to Microsoft Office from OpenOffice.org. Glyn Moody writes: 'You don't compare a rival's product with your own if it is not comparable. And you don't make this kind of attack video unless you are really, really worried about the growing success of a competitor. [Microsoft] has now clearly announced that OpenOffice.org is a serious rival to Microsoft Office, and should be seriously considered by anyone using the latter.'"
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Microsoft Admits OpenOffice.org Is a Contender

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  • by Corporate Troll (537873) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:45AM (#33892170) Homepage Journal

    There is the price, but then there is the horrible Ribbon interface. I have yet to meet someone IRL who *really* likes it. I recently installed Microsoft Office 2010 to recover emails from a corrupted system (Needed to open PST files, copied the mails to an IMAP server. No more Office needed... That what Trial Versions are great for!). Frankly, it comes over even more toyish, more "Please treat me as a dumb user". It's aggravating.

    Interestingly, when installing 2010, it asked me whether I wanted to enable OpenDocument formats. I was torougly surprised by that. That's another admittance of Microsoft that OpenOffice is a treath.

  • Except... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xtracto (837672) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:49AM (#33892200) Journal

    Except that MS should focus on LibreOffice now... didn't they got the memo?

    Or is it because they know Larry Ellison hates Microsoft...

  • by xtracto (837672) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:57AM (#33892276) Journal

    Funny, I have yet to find anyone (except me...as I just hate it) in my workplace (research institute) who does not like the new ribbon interface.

    Frankly, it comes over even more toyish, more "Please treat me as a dumb user". It's aggravating.

    Well... that might be for your self aggravating ego; for the majority of users it means an interface that gets out of their way.

    quoting from TFA:

    After doing a little digging, we found that these quotes are actually from case studies and press articles from the last four years,

    What I would really like to hear is equivalent quotes of companies who successfully migrated from MS Office to OO.o. Is there any? (no, not /. pseudonym-"in my office"-anecdotes, but real company names)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:58AM (#33892294)

    Alternate hypothesis - Microsoft is really worried about the competition that Google docs presents to the casual web-connected user to their own Live offerings; so distract from that threat by hyping the non-contender. Don't get me wrong, I like oOo a lot and have used it extensively, but for enterprises the difference between deploying Office and oOo is like... well, there isn't even effective deployment documentation for oOo.

  • by Andy Smith (55346) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:13AM (#33892406) Homepage

    I'm not an open source zealot, don't use Linux, have no particular dislike for Microsoft, but Office hasn't really been on my radar for a long time. I used Word for years, but when I got a new computer a few years ago it didn't come with Office installed so I downloaded OpenOffice to see what it was like. Never went back -- there didn't seem to be any point. I'm sure there are many, many things that Microsoft Word, Excel etc can do that OpenOffice Writer, Calc etc can't do, but personally I've never hit that hurdle. Office may still be required for some business tasks, but for my own business and personal use, OpenOffice will do me fine. Thank you to the wonderful people that made it and released it for free!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:14AM (#33892412)

    Oh boy could I talk about this, since I'm just finished converting our ODF files to OOXML. A year or so ago I recommended a move to ODF/OpenOffice, being one to generally support open standards and open source, and it seemed like a good fit since we have a multi-platform office.

    The problem is, OpenOffice can't even stay consistent with ITSELF between saving a file and opening it on the same machine. Don't even get started into the irritating minor-but-unacceptable differences in a file between going from Mac and PC. The one time we opened and saved a document in Linux OpenOffice it screwed it up so bad that the file was unusable. But even on ONE platform, page breaks would move around, images would move in front of callouts, sometimes callouts would move to the very beginning of the doucment, and, worst of all, occasionally images would go missing from files. These are large files that we frequently send to print. It's completley unacceptable that we check every page before sending it to the printer.

    And yet, on the forums that was about the extent of the advice that I got. Instead of help fixing the problem, I got recommendations to change the way the documetns were laid out that would have been impossible with our formatting needs. Any real help I tried to get was shot down by the, "I can't easily recreate it so I'm not going to fix it or try to figure out what's causing the problem for you.

    OpenOffice could be a shining beacon for the open source community. But it really just sucks.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:14AM (#33892424) Journal
    Any coder who has profiled his/her code knows that a few lines, a few functions use most of the CPU time. Same way of all the features you find in an office suite, some 10% of it gets used very very heavily and another 20% of it would play spoiler in interoperability. Rest of the features are essentially bells and whistles meant to be used as bullet points in presentations made to top clients by the salesmen.

    Typically Microsoft would keep messing with file formats, binary blobs dumped into the files, fonts/menus etc in every release to keep increasing the "spoiler" features and increase costs to OpenOffice and other competitors who are trying to keep up with the interoperability.

    I have not seen any new feature in the last 5 years in MsOffice that is a must have feature or a killer feature. And most of the core functionality that could be saved and restored in Office97 format cleanly in MsOffice is done equally well in OpenOffice. Though it won the battle in getting OOXML certified as another "standard" format, the battle raised the visibility of interoperability issues and a few customers started actually separating "microsoft compatibility" from "interoperability". So they are setting the default save format is Office97 even on newer versions to keep their escape avenue open.

    Another important strategic mistake it made was ignoring the web based office tools. Microsoft knew there were millions of pirated copies of MsOffice is being used everywhere. It turned a blind eye to it thinking, "these guys would never actually pay for an office suite. If we crackdown they might go to OpenOffice. So let us keep them in the tent, as a way to deny market share to the competition". When the web based office tools started coming out, they saw it as a pathetic little pipsqueak not comparable to the full power of a desktop Office tool. But it siphoned off a large portion of the bootleg users who were looking for a legal option to do simple editing without having to pay for a full price MsOffice suite. Now compatibility and interoperability with these web office tools is an issue and it is tying down Microsoft. It is not able to play the usual, "make enough changes to the file formats and the api and the look and feel and leave enough bugs in there to make everybody look bad compared to the defacto standard microsoft ".

    Finally the software costs have soared. It used to cost 50$ for MsWord and 1900$ for a desk top in 1995. Now it is 100$ for a decent desktop and 300$ for MsOffice (more if you want these ultimate, professional versions). The hardware has become very powerful and a virtual machine running an WinXP 2005 image in a protected sandbox actually runs faster than the original machine it shipped with. People are recyling their old Microsoft Windows licenses and Office licenses using VMware.

    I think Microsoft will still milk a few more billions of dollars from MsOffice. But it is not going to grow as fast as it did. If they suspend all new development on it and just milk it for profits, they might actually make more money than trying to add more bells whistles and hidden mines and bombs to thwart interoperability.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:16AM (#33892434) Journal
    I think that your hypothesis has merit, in the sense that Google Docs is probably a bigger longterm threat(particularly to home user sales: once a corporation buys a bunch of sharepoint licenses, I suspect MS stops worrying); but I'm not sure that releasing this video will be much of a strike against Google Docs.

    Google's Docs thrust seems to be coming in two directions: one is the casual user pitch, by subtly linking it to their other offerings("view as HTML" for PDF results in a google search is now called "quick view" and, once clicked, dumps you into Google Docs, rather than the old static HTML version. Similar linkages are to be found in Gmail and so forth). I suspect that this will be fairly effective, particularly since Google Docs(while it doesn't even try to go toe-to-toe with Office's feature list, has a few absolutely killer features for casual users: Anyone who isn't a gearhead or a cube drone with a good IT team has historically been without both document versioning and an offsite backup. Docs gives you both, for free, relatively intuitively). The sort of people who are brought in by this pitch probably won't even see this MS video, or know of its existence. They might be brought into Microsoft's "Live" camp by MS doing similar linking to Hotmail; but that pretty much depends on which email service they've been using for years now. The video might have more value against Google's second pitch direction, the "$COMPANY_AND_OR_STATE_ENTITY Has Gone Google" advertisements, which are explicitly aimed at getting organizations to switch. Here again, Microsoft is probably pretty safe from Google among their giant corporate customers, since(if you buy enough add-ons, server products, and IT support) you can already get all the features of Office, plus things like versioning, backup, and availability on any computer in an enterprise; but any company/organization that was seriously using OpenOffice is much more likely to not be wedded to Microsoft to nearly that extent. They could, easily enough, say "OpenOffice is kind of a hassle; but the sticker shock on a proper Office deployment is killing me. Hey, Google has something that costs about as much, per year, as I spend at starbucks in a month, and nothing to install. Interesting..."
  • by scharkalvin (72228) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:24AM (#33892504) Homepage

    Look at the comments on the site where the video was linked to. Most of the comments were negative toward OO. However it seems that the biggest issues are compatibility (with M$), ease of use (complaints from people who had learned WP and SS apps on M$ Office), speed and support. Since the 'world standard' for WP files seems to be M$.doc format and this is always a moving target the compatibility complaint is real. Ease of use is an issue, and OO does need to improve in this area. Having more 'training' documentation, perhaps some YouTube videos for this would help. I don't know how much of OO is still built on java, but getting rid of this layer and re-writing EVERYTHING in some good HL language (C, C++, etc) would help with the speed issue. I'm guessing that the Java runtime layer is taking a godawfull time to initialize and suck up all the resources it needs. Finally there is support. There is decent on-line support for OO, but it's all over the place. You might have to google all afternoon to find the right URL to find answers to your questions. I don't know if you can buy OO support from Conical (Ubuntu), but there is an oportunitiy there for them to fill.

    I use OO writer at home to write documents, and their spredsheet mostly to view excel files (which it does rather well, once I allow it to convert them to native format). I've had tons of problems with fixing format of documents imported from M$ word however. Once I get the format right on the screen it doesn't always print the same way. It's a WYSIAWYG problem. (What you see is ALMOST what you get). Mind you, OO (OK from now on LO) has promise and maybe now that it's been forked from Scum/Oriface it may improve as a true open source project. Gnu Cash took a while to get as good as it is, now it rivals the commerical product. Hopefully LO will improve to this point.

  • by Malc (1751) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:29AM (#33892556)

    I really like the ribbon. It's an improvement over the combination of toolbars and menus. I can seem to be able to find things more quickly. OpenOffice on the other hand looks and feels like Word for Windows 2, with all its problems.

  • by maztuhblastah (745586) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:37AM (#33892690) Journal

    Sun owned the trademark before, it didn't hinder development then.

    Oh yes, it absolutely did. Sun proved to be a major hinderance to the development process -- so much so, in fact, that a fork was created and actually became the go-to choice for some Linux distributions.

    It was called go-oo [go-oo.org], and if you've installed/used "OpenOffice" in Debian, Ubuntu, or a few other distros, you actually used Go-OO without realizing it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:46AM (#33892830)

    Not if your company pays for it or if you write it off as a business expense.

    Plus there is one important part of MS Office that neither OpenOffice nor any other software in existence has matched. OneNote. Yes, I've tried stuff like Evernote, but it's all crap compared to OneNote.

  • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:59AM (#33893080)

    It shouldn't come as a surprise that MS is willing to whore themselves out to the lowest common denominator.

    Yes, how dare they make their software more usable and less opaque to the users instead of the other way around! That's clearly the antithesis of good software design.

  • by CrashandDie (1114135) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @09:00AM (#33893098)

    I easily run up to 3 gigs of email per month. I use auto-archiving, but there's just a lot of stuff I need to keep in my inbox for searching and reference. Most of these are pdf files going back and forth: 10, 20 revisions of the same 6MB PDF file isn't unheard of, so that's between 60 and 120MB just on one email thread, per day.

    Now take into account I get between 150 and 250 emails per day, and archiving becomes a very nasty thing. I usually chalk it off as admin work, and it takes me about an hour or two to weed through it every month. I have a hard drive that is dedicated to email backup.

  • by q-the-impaler (708563) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @09:00AM (#33893100)

    My office of approx 50 people is about 50/50 OO.org and MS Office. The more technically-minded people took to OO.org. We still save in the MS format for compatibility. For the most part, the MS Office users have not migrated simply because they "think" it's going to make their jobs harder. There have only been a handful of incidents where there was a compatibility issue. Culturally, the two camps feel they are superior to each other, so it is an interesting social experiment and mimics the dichotomy you see on /. posts.

  • by bugsbunnyak (1148775) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @09:37AM (#33893852)
    +1. Ribbon annoyed me for the first day or so I had to use it, but once I got the hang of it I realized that I was spending at least 1 and usually 2+ fewer clicks to do what I needed. It is actually very well-designed and provides a considerable productivity boost.
  • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @10:58AM (#33895446)

    So your argument amounts to change is bad, and making software more accessible and easy to use is not worth while. Do you have any actual criticism? How does the Ribbon actually stack up against OpenOffice's menu?

    Let's take changing page dimension for instance. In Office 2007, it's 3 clicks (Page layout > Size > Select). In Open Office 3.2, it's 6 clicks (Format > Page > Page > Format > Select Size > Ok). To change the size again (if you don't like it for instance) in Office it's 2 clicks, and in Open Office it's 5 clicks (you save a click since the page tab is pre-selected).

    Or consider footer, for instance. Say I want to add a footer and adjust its height. In Office, I double click on the footer, and the footer ribbon is brought up where I can adjust all aspects (including height) and see how my document changes. In Open Office, I have to go to Format > Page > Footer > Footer On > Adjust Height > Ok. The footer ribbon at the same time gives me helpful options I might need. If I didn't know how to add automatic page numbering in Office, I can easily find out because that option is made obvious. For open office, (I actually had to search online where to find this option) you have to go into Insert > Fields > Page Number.

    These are all low level, basic operations any user might want to do. I haven't even addressed things like, how do I change the color and style of fonts in the document. In Office you simply hover over the options to see how they look and pick one. In open office styles are represented by text, so you can't quickly see what each represents.... needless to say it's a pain.

    I think I've made my point. I could probably choose any given task or function in Office and Open Office and demonstrate how it takes more time or is inefficient in Open Office. The only thing you can say about the ribbon is it's different from before. Through converting, I hardly had to hunt for options as they are not only logically displayed (I want to change the page layout. Maybe I should go to the page layout ribbon), but also only 3 levels deep at maximum. With a menu system, related options are only sometimes found together (The bibliography database and insert citation options in Open Office are in two entirely different menus), and there is no limit to the depth of the menu. You admit yourself that novice users easily get lost in large menu structures, and that only expert users find this system workable. Why should a consumer office suite only be usable by experts?

    Open office even implements some of the features of the Ribbon. Go ahead and insert a table, and you'll see a context box for table formatting options, just like the ribbon. It's kind of nice, since you can access the menu with this toolbox open, but the ribbon address this in that the options you want are still on average less clicks away.

    Personally I haven't stated my Ph.D. thesis, but I've written plenty of term papers and research papers in Word. I find the auto index, ToC, Bibliography, and caption tool very useful for longer documents, however I don't see how Open Office is any better for this application. I also use Excel for some of my research (not all) because it's easy and accessible, leaving me more time to do research. I'm very happy with the 2007 ribbon interface, as it's drastically increased my productivity and introduced me to features which are either new, or at least new to me.

  • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @11:13AM (#33895674)

    How is bringing all 90% of the functionality within 3 clicks hiding functionality? Common tasks like page formatting are brought front and center in Office, whereas in Open office it's buried in a tab in a sub menu of a sub menu.

    Further advanced functionality, like ToC, Indexes, Bibliography, are made accessible to the user, rather than languishing unused in the menu system.

    You state the ribbon doesn't make sense, but you don't back that up. From my perspective it's perfectly logical. Want to change page dimensions and orientation? Page layout. Want to insert a picture? Insert. Want to add a citation? References. There are some odds and ends out of place, but it's not as bag as putting Bibliography in "Tools" and Citations in "Insert > Indexes and Tablet" as in Open Office.

  • by CycleMan (638982) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @12:50PM (#33897572)

    Saying that every Action is within N Clicks is not a sufficient proof. The other question is how many Thinks you have to make per Click. At the present, many of the comments here are from folks who are much more efficient in Thinks per Action with the old system than the Ribbon, and I am one of them. I had extensively customized my menu bars to meet my exact uses, and could achieve many of my desired tasks with one click, not 3 or 6, so I am seeing a two-fold loss: more clicks, and more thinks per click.

    I'm surprised I haven't seen folks talking about Wordperfect's efficiencies or the beloved command line in this thread.

    Over time, the balance of folks who think the Ribbon is wonderful versus horribly inefficient will shift as old users die and new users are born. Bloatware will become the norm. And they wonder why Americans are so fat and resource-demanding. It's not our sodas, it's our software.

  • Re:Outlook (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Blakey Rat (99501) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @02:58PM (#33899560)

    I'm not sure that's a reasonable question. A more reasonable question is, does it replace the features in Outlook that you actually use?

    Well, no. Frankly.

    As far as I can tell, and maybe I was just using it wrong, there's practically zero integration between email and calendaring in Thunderbird... you can't send an event invite and ask people to reply with "Accept" or "Decline" like in Outlook. When scheduling, you can't see their calendars to find out when the most people are available. You can't look up the status of meeting resources like conference rooms or projectors. You can't go back and look an hour later to see how many people accepted and how many declined, or easily move the meeting to another conference room if it turns out you get more respondents than you expected, or send a quick ballot asking if people want to meet at a restaurant instead of a conference room, or any of the million of things people do seamlessly in Outlook every hour of every day without even thinking about it.

  • Re:Outlook (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Blakey Rat (99501) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:01AM (#33907528)

    That's why I said, bundling IMAP, CalDAV and LDAP with a proprietary layer does not a unique product make.

    Well, first of all, Outlook was around before that combination of protocols existed in the first place, so they have a first-mover advantage and a network effect.

    Secondly, the fact that Exchange is selling like hotcakes and nobody's setting up the configuration you're proposing suggests to me that IMAP, CalDAV and LDAP *do not* meet user needs-- otherwise they'd be being used right now. This could be for a variety of reasons: maybe because it's harder to admin? Maybe because it's missing a critical feature? (I know Thunderbird is missing tons) Maybe because nobody's pulled it together as a single product with a single brand name? But the fact of the matter is, something's wrong with it.

    The fact that Exchange is so popular proves it's doing something the alternatives are not. This is self-evident. You can either accept that fact, and attempt to fix your solution so that it does everything Exchange does, or continue to live in denial.

    and Apple even bundles an open source offering that rivals Exchange in Mac OS X Server.

    Perhaps but:
    1) Nobody uses Macs for corporate work
    2) If they do, they sure as hell don't use Mac OS X Server, it's expensive with crappy support and few admins know it

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