No real alternatives to Microsoft Office

Reuters: Office, Microsoft Corp.’s collection of programs for business documents and tasks, is fast becoming a software platform unto itself. A growing number of software developers are creating programs that run on top of Office, in the same way that Office and thousands of other applications run on Microsoft Windows. […] It was the vast number of third-party Windows programs that led to that platform’s dominance of the personal computer market and made Microsoft the world’s largest software maker. […] Office generates $10.6 billion in annual revenue, making it Microsoft’s second-largest business, behind Windows.

Reuters | Is Microsoft’s Office Becoming More Like Windows?

The Reuters report is a good article and includes commentary by Jeff Raikes, Group VP at Microsoft’s Information Worker Business, on the company’s broad strategy for Office.

The story also comments on alternatives to Office, in particular Corel’s WordPerfect Office suite.

I remember WordPerfect from the MS-DOS days, the word processor (doesn’t that description sound a bit quaint now?). I became a committed WordPerfect 5.0 (and  later, and 5.1) user, moving up from WordStar. I didn’t even consider using Microsoft Word for DOS.

Well, those days are long gone and Office (Word in particular) is king of the hill without any doubt. I use Office 2003 Professional and regard the suite as just about perfect (no pun intended) for my needs.

More than anything, though, I use it because every company I know also uses it. If I want to edit a document that someone else has written, it will be a Word document. If I create a presentation that someone else needs to view and comment on, it will be a PowerPoint. And so on.

If you want to try something else, what options do you have?

There is the WordPerfect Suite. It will open and save files in
Office formats. There is Lotus SmartSuite from IBM that includes Lotus 1-2-3, once the leader by miles in spreadsheets on DOS.

Yet in my view, if you’re going to look at an
alternative to Office, why dish out more dosh to pay for one when there
is at least one other credible alternative that is free.

I’m talking about Open Office.
(Great mission: "To create, as a community, the leading international
office suite that will run on all major platforms and provide access to
all functionality and data through open-component based APIs and an
XML-based file format.")

I’ve been trying out the Windows version of Open Office for some
weeks, installed the latest version 1.1.4 RC last week. It’s a beta,
but it’s stable (certainly more so than the release version 1.1.3, in
my experience). For word processing, it will open and save broadly
reliably in Word format (one issue I’ve had that is a big problem,
though, is when you have a Word document with lots of tracked changes).
Look-and-feel is broadly familiar. It doesn’t take much time to get up
and running with it.

(Side note: I see from Marc Orchant’s post yesterday in The Office Weblog that a preview release of Open Office version 2.0 is now available for download. I haven’t yet checked that out.)

One of the things I like about Open Office is that you see it as a
single application which you use to create and edit different document
types. So for creating text, a presentation, a spreadsheet, HTML – you
just think about one program.

Yet I wouldn’t ditch Microsoft Office and switch to this. Yes, I’m
trying it out and I broadly like it. But until I know that at least
some of the companies I deal with use the product and not Office, it’s
not a change I really want to make.
And with the next Office version in the works – Office 12, incorporating more desktop programs, servers and services
– the bar will be raised even higher making it more difficult for
others to keep up – especially open source offerings like Open Office –
at least on the Windows platform.

And therein lies a Catch-22 dilemma for anyone trying to enter the market that Microsoft dominates with Office.

One thought on “No real alternatives to Microsoft Office

  1. I do lots of editing and art production. If I had the money I’d have a MAC; I have Win2K; Right now LInux stuff is getting much better but the problem is that anything goes wrong. I am close to an old member of techorati;) but sometimes I don’t have time to patch and tweak and get things to work. If there was something as good as Firefox in the “Office” world I’d use it. My problem is that even as good as Firfox is there are still things that work better in IE, but not many. My friends who use Linux based things still do a simple set of things that are not very complicated and integrated and I have gotten beyond that point. So MS Word and MS$Office are still things I use. Along with Macromedia stuff because it is hard to find a “good alternative”.
    Anyone know different?
    Have Fun,
    Sends Steve

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