Which Office Suite?

Which Office Suite? Is shaping up to be a fascinating decision making process.  I am not ready to expose all of my thinking on this topic but it goes something like this:


  1. Some people think its easy, MS Office alternatives are cheaper and most people don’t use the bells and whistles in Office so people will migrate provided the alternatives meet peoples core needs.
  2. I think its more complex than this and as a minimum the costs of migration, lost productivity, and compatibility and rework need to be factored in
  3. Intertia is a big one in Microsofts favour, for a business that has SW Assurance or an EA, the decision is deferred probably for at least 2-3 years after their EA expires and probably longer if they do a lot of data interchange.  That probably means 4-5 years from now!
  4. But this is the trivial stuff.  Sure direct and indirect cost comparison is important but I want to consider:
    1. How do people really use Office and is it really true that people only use a small amount of the functionality, and if they do, do they all use a different small amount?
    2. I also want to consider vision, MS has a vision for Office, What is that Vision?
    3. How open is that vision, probably not very!  Is the value proposition worth the lock-in?  Is the ‘integrated innovation’ that Microsoft are fond of worth the lock-in
    4. What’s the vision of the competition, for some of them is it to catch up with Office 97.  For others it’s a complete reworking of the concept.  So it’s important not to just ask the question can it do what office does!
    5. Remember the vision is the important stuff, if the decision is 4-5 years away!

 Maybe that all sounds a bit dry, so why do I think it’s so interesting:


  1. Consider how many users of Office there are
  2. Consider how much of Microsoft’s profits come from Office and how desperate MS are to keep that profit coming in, desperate people innovate!
  3. Consider how important Office is to drive MS Operating system sales and how important OS sales are to MS profits, desperate times two!
  4. Consider how desperate the competition is to break the MS Office Suite monopoly
  5. Look at the last few versions of Office, basically a stagnant product, innovating sure, but within a straight jacket imposed by the fact that all of the core Office stuff is effectively done, and improvements are marginal.
  6. All the real interesting stuff requires further client side, client server, peer to peer and device type to device type integration
  7. Hence we see the push in the Office System areas, Mobility, WinFS.

So its integrated integration where the action is from Microsoft’s perspective and they are pouring billions into it, how are the competition addressing integrated innovation, or do they have an alternative perspective.  How do the differing approaches affect real enterprises and real users, (see this blog for the difference).  Thats the question I want to answer!


As a twist the answer may not just depend on the type of person you are, but on the type of device you use.  So maybe portable device users and especially tablet device users will have a more compelling reason to stick with MS because for these people the flexible input technologies, online/offiline experience, home/work integration, device integration etc are more important.


Some of the important links are listed below:


Advantages of the OpenOffice.org XML File Format Used by the StarOffice Office Suite

Migrating to StarOffice Software from Microsoft Office

Draft of OO Product Concept Document

Accepted OO Projects

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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