Andy posted a link to this Microsoft video. Now most people would agree that this is a strange thing for Microsoft to do – OpenOffice can hardly be  threat to the MS Office franchise and this just looks like the big boys getting heavy on the little guys. On that we all probably agree. I wanted to look at the issues raised in the video however, and why I believe OpenOffice is doomed.

Firstly some context. I’ve used MS Office for, I guess, 15 years or so. I’ve also had a few years experience with OpenOffice. I’m a heavy Google docs user as well as having dabbled with Zoho docs and those archaic apps that came bundled with Macs last century – it’s fair to say I’ve run the office productivity gamut. I’m not a power used – I rarely get jiggy with pivot tables and the like – but I’m probably at a use level along with 90% of other users out there. Given that, I think I’m vaguely qualified to articulate an opinion.

And that opinion goes thusly: OpenOffice is just wrong.

Strong words, and destined to get the backs up of my FOSS friends so let me explain. I divide the office suite using world into two distinct groups. Firstly, and the smaller of the two groups, are the power users. They’re the folks who have tens of thousands of rows in their spreadsheets, dozens of worksheets and use high level functionalities – macros, pivot tables and the like. I’d suspect that perhaps 5% (maybe 10% at the outside) of users fall into this category. Second up, and making up the vast majority of users, re those who simply want a product that they can make half-pie decent looking docs in, deliver a presentation and use a spreadsheet.

So what are the tools that are most fit for purpose for these two groups? For the vast majority – an online suite is perfect. It meets their needs, allows for collaboration and, perhaps most importantly, doesn’t confront them with utter bloat. It’s about allowing users to do what they need to, in the easiest possible way. For most of these users, a “full featured” office suite is just too complex for their needs.

For the power users, and speaking about where functionality, the limitations of the browser, latency and practicality lie today, desktop applications will remain the best approach. Yes I know some will so that as heresy, but I see it more as a pragmatic approach to finding the best solution for the problem at hand.

And yes, before you ask, I do realize that Office is *kind of* online and that OpenOffice also has a *sort of* online offering. That doesn’t change my core contentions in this post. And now over to the ever-vehement FOSS folks to rebut…

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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