Office vs OpenOffice

Marc describes some of the uncomfortable realities on his great blog this week:

You can rail all you want about standards and how Microsoft’s current Office document is open and how, evil empire that they are, they’ll find a way to poison the well with their new XML-based formats. And from a purist perspective you’re probably technically right. But you’re thinking like a geek and ignoring reality.

The reality, like it or not, is that standards are defined by the market. I’m not talking about IETF standards here, I’m talking about business standards. Businesses use Microsoft Office. They hire people who have Microsoft Office skills, so that’s what schools teach and use as their standard. The people who work in these Office-standard businesses and learn in these Office-standard schools need to do work at home. So guess what they use there? Yup… they use Microsoft Office. Or they use Works (which reads or imports Office files).

I agree with his points,  but I also think that people play up the benefits of open standards whilst ignoring the benefits of ubiquity.  Users of Microsoft Office gain many additional advantages, beyond the capabilities of their products:

  • Everything imports and exports in Office formats, and will also do the same shortly after the new XML formats ship
  • Thousands of add-ins and extensions are available to fill every functionality gap in Microsoft products
  • Thousands of partners offer expertise and systems integration skills

Microsoft Office is in many ways similar to the iPod which is a great product but now succeeds not just because of its functionality but because of the huge number of add-on products and services that have created an eco-system that’s much more valuable than the product at its core.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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