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back to article Microsoft's fear of an OpenOffice

Perhaps Microsoft's failure to meaningfully penetrate new markets like search has it scrambling to defend old turf like Office, but something is awry in the company's latest salvo against OpenOffice. Microsoft, with a gargantuan 94-per-cent share of the office productivity market, has seen fit to release a video beating up on …

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@Dazed and Confused: Thank-you

You saved me much typing time and painted a better picture than I would have.

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Biggest problem & threat is it's an Office clone

"Because OpenOffice just upset me whenever I had to use it. Awful software."

Well, it *is* an Office clone after all.

But seriously, it should worry Microsoft. Sure, if people have these loads of custom macros or other custom rigging, well, honestly they probably can't even go from Office 2003 to 2007 or 2007 to 2010 or whatever without some of it breaking. Otherwise, OpenOffice really does duplicate Office pretty well for most uses, well enough to really make people think twice about paying $100s for Office. Plus OO doesn't have that horrible ribbon.

What problems does OO have? Essentially the biggest problem is ALSO that it's an Office clone -- it's bloated, just like Office (with as many features as OO and Office have crammed in I think this is relatively unavoidable, although OO is quite a bit smaller.). It's interface is clunky, just like Office (and to those who want to mention the ribbon, sorry, strips of unlabelled icons are worse that the menu-based interface). It has people trying to use spreadsheets as "databases" (even though Office *has* a bad database included) and do page layout with a word processor, just like Office.

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Kind of what I was thinking....

What the world needs is an MS-Works replacement (unless Im missing something...). I spent an evening trying to convert a friends Works document into something the rest of the world could read, without much joy (not having MS Office).

I use AbiWord and Gnumerics when I dont need the grunt of OO, but TBH they're both flakey and not software that I would trust or roll out to someone who I am defacto support for.

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FAIL

Office clone

Worse.

I want to format a word, and it changes the sentence. I want to change a sentence and it changes a whole paragraph. Not to be taken exactly literally, but I certainly found it one of those do-what-I-want-not-what-you-want programs. Dreadful. More microsoftian than microsoft.

Still, I am using linux now, not Windows, so I guess I'll have to get used to it. Either that, or it'll be writing letters in vi again, like when I went from a manual typewriter to Unix.

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"Still, I am using linux now"

I only use Linux and so Open Office is a given. My use is mostly spreadsheets but my wife uses the word processor a lot and really had no trouble adapting, both to Linux and Open Office. She's a mostly-retired teacher who still acts as a consultant to her old school so was moving from Windows/Office. Remote access from the Linux machines to her school's Windows system is notably more robust and quicker BTW

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Anonymous Coward

I hate Word!

Actually, I loathe it.

Trouble is, I think the Open Office clone is worse. Glad if it works for you, though: I expect I'll get used to it, or find something else.

The spreadsheet is beginning to look almost respectable: hugely better than when I looked at it a few years back.

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Go

Phase 4 must be approaching

"First they ignore us, then they mock us, then they fight us, then..."

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Pint

You read my mind

MS have fallen for the five card trick. OK that's only 4. Have another beer and we'll solve this one together. Just updated my laptop to ubuntu 10.10 tonight. Free. That's FREE. Hard to beat that kind of value.

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Happy

I saw a an older lady...

...at the MS Office display at the local Fry's. I think she was in shock at the price of Office.

Told her to try OO first, it's free, why spend > $100 to write a letter? Ha ha

/ducks to avoid chair

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Flame

There are two types of companies in the tech world...

Here's the situation: A company sees a product produced by a rival that is similar to something they themselves produce

Company type A reacts by upping their game to improve on it and win the market by innovation and/or quality and just being better in general. (Hey, it's a bit like how evolution works)

Company type B reacts by going completely paranoid and launching a massive slagging campaign to discredit their rival, regardless of the fact that what they produce isn't actually particularly good. Furthermore, the campaign itself is often full of misinformation or even outright lies, and the product they produce remains pretty much the same for years on end.

Why is it that I feel like Microsoft seems to fall into category B every single time?

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Because....

At least 95% of big corp is Type B all over, Apple, Microsoft, Oracle; they all fiercely guard their OK-ish products and stifle any attempt by any Type A to produce anything that might be better than the recycled dross they're making.

Microsoft is looking more and more like the record industry, trying the cling to it's fiefdoms while the ground beneath them is eroded away. They couldn't answer the iPhone (or clue-phone for that matter) or indeed any fruity throwdown, Phone 7 won't conquer Andriod and now Office is under threat.

The moment anyone designs a real SQL Server alternative and get big corp using it Microsoft will find it under attack on all fronts.

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Boffin

Bean counters write and use Excell macros

If *they* don't work that *is* a deal breaker.

Make sure Excel macros run properly and *lots* change.

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It's the price

MS is losing out in the home. No one wants all the fancy features of Office when you just want to write a letter.

So, £186 for Office, or free download of OpenOffice?

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#Price

>So, £186 for Office, or free download of OpenOffice?

Home & Student version of Office 2010 is actually only £75 for 3 licenses. Likewise OEM Office bundles cost consumers about the same as a current video game or a meal out.

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Which...

Which oddly enough is STILL more expensive than FREE...

New game or meal out + OOo

vs

MS Office OEM/Home

Hmmmm - I've never yet had to do anything at home that's required my use of MS Office over OOo - to be fair, I've never yet had to do anything that's required the full "complexity" of MS Office anywhere, ever.

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FAIL

OEM Office bundle?

That's called Works, I don't think I've ever seen anything other than trial versions of full-fat Office on a home PC.

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Megaphone

Re: OOo good enough to write a letter.

Yes it is.

But who in this day and age, particularly in a home environment, writes letters!?! Even my mum writes emails (though she calls them faxes :-D )

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Pirate

People still pay for MS Office?

Last time I bought a computer, a Macbook, they were not only giving MS Office away, Microsoft offered a mail in $50 cash rebate or an MS Arc Mouse? I chose the cash.

And most people I know with Windows machines have a pirated copy of the software.

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Please don't make Excel macros work

Please, please, nobody make Excel macros work in OO.o. One of the joys of working in the F/OSS world is that the phrase 'Excel macro' never occurs...

(of course, the local equivalent is 'perl script').

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Paris Hilton

(of course, the local equivalent is 'perl script').

Hardly. perl scripts are easy to understand (relatively)

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silverlight?

So. To view the MS video about Ooo's threat to office I have to download and install silverlight on my linux box?

How does that work then?

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There's a term for that...

"I can't install Sliverlight on Linux" = Lucky!

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MS Office...

MS Office... riddled with bugs, that have been in place since the '97 versions and earlier. Never fixed, just crappy new interfaces slapped on top of the same old code. Of course, there's the half baked "integration" with sharepoint and other junk to try to leverage more lock-in, but these features are barely used ever - partly because very few want them but also because they're invariably unstable and unusable as hell.

Not that OO is perfect, but it's come to the rescue on many occasions to recover a document that office has mangled beyond all recognition and is a less trying recovery tool for documents that wordpad (for .doc files)

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OO.o does MSO better than MSO?

"Not that OO is perfect, but it's come to the rescue on many occasions to recover a document that office has mangled beyond all recognition and is a less trying recovery tool for documents that [sic] wordpad (for .doc files)"

Funny you should mention that. A local business has sent me Excel files that they are unable to open using, um, Excel. OO.o Calc (on a Debian box) opens them just fine, so I save-as a renamed .xls file and send them back. They can then open them, at least, and fix any corruptions. Usually, OO.o has opened and saved the spreadsheets perfectly.

Oddly, I can't talk them into simply installing OO.o for themselves. :shrug:

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Jobs Horns

Ahhh the joy - the joy - of watching the knives go in...

After YEARS of suffering incomprehensible insanity, demoralisation, frustration, and an acute vertical learning curve - at the hands of Microsoft and their "really shit is good enough" operating systems and software..... (or let the consumers sort it out - and then charge them again for another upgrade in 2 or 3 years time)

Since MS have been a real barrel of monkeys, I have also been looking for solutions to the MS shitfest of corporate crapware sourced problems, I have been looking to solutions to them and for escape routes from them.....

Linux - in the variant called Ubuntu - and Open Office; along with a HUGE swathe of generally really excellent software has grown and developed - meaning that the folks at Microsoft can stick their products up their arses....

I reckon it's sooooooo good to see all the MS Anti-Fans sticking the knives in......

And I ask myself why are the so well informed, so adversarial towards Microsoft?

Why has Microsoft made so many visciferal enemies?

Let me see...

Killing off backward compatibility with their own products.

Killing off interoperability with other software.

Selling buggy - as in really buggy software.

Making so incredibly hackable operating systems - with NO firewall, no anti-malware, and the most fragmented (in 10 different areas) security settings...

Ripping off customers... by charging people in the USA one price and everyone else double - and then bullshitting their way out of that with excuses like "Oh we charge double to account for currency fluctuations".

Rigging the ISO certification process to make xhml (or docx or whatever) a formal standard.... MS's own formal standard.

The fucking cancer that this company is with it's cash grabbing vertical integration and forced repeat buying cycles.....

Oh damn... I migrated gradually over to Linux.... NEVER going back.

Microsofts shifty secretive shitware is neither worth the cost nor the hassles.

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Coat

$1=£1

Microsoft is far from alone in that nice little earner, sorry, I mean con trick.

Same with operating systems. Went through a long sales demonstration for a reporting package that we knew we would be quite keen on, and were. We didn't mind that our enthusiasm was showing. In the final negotiations, somebody noticed that our servers were AIX, not NT, and the price got multiplied by ten. Excuse us, but there's the door.

We did it too: we got the Unix system at the Windows price --- just shows what bullshit the price structure actually was.

And... charging by processor power. Look: I have twenty users, I want a twenty user licence, WTF is it to you what Mhz those twenty users' tasks are running at? It's the same software, doing the same work, only just a bit faster.

Con men, the lot of 'em!

Errr... I think I may have gone just a *little* bit off topic. It's late. Coat please!

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Arm based devices can get OOo, they can't get MSO

with the iPad getting tons of hype and everyone knowing Microsoft tried this for over a decade they know they have to get back into the market. But there's one problem and that is that Apple changed the game because they could, and did, go without x86. So now all Microsoft has is Windows CE to run on ARM and Microsoft Office does not go there. It is a big deal because without some way to hook into their market position, they have to compete on the OS level and Windows CE does nothing to help. Windows 7 might but it's huge, bloated, heavy on resources and to top it off requires x86 so that device would have to be a few pounds heavier or a few hours less battery life.

Bashing OpenOffice is their way of saying, 'so your netbook or tablet runs OOo, it's not Microsoft Office so you really don't want it'. That's all I can come up with since this does seem to be coming out of the blue. We also know that Microsoft is deeply involved with many vendors and what they are doing with tablets and netbooks and there's lots of Android talk these days. Microsoft just does not fear something enough to make it public without something triggering it.

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FAIL

Multiple fails

First of all, I could not see the video (Sileverlight required?) on my XP with Firefox. Almost 100% CPU until closed down manually. Duh! Found some other Microsoft produced videos against OOo on YouTube instead.

Secondly, Microsoft seems to talk about the difficulty of changing from MS Office to OpenOffice.org -- how about changing from one version of MS Office to the next? I have had quite a few calls from my less IT-savvy friends after they upgraded to a newer version of MS Office. Calls like "How do I do this now? It used to be in ..." I cannot help anymore as I stopped at MS Office 2003 and have not looked at any of the newer versions. I have, in fact, not even seen the Ribbon in real life!

Thirdly, apart from big organisations (or organisations with very IT-savvy people), macros seem to be rarely used. And, as other people have said in their posts, macros can be pure hell to maintain -- especially when the original creator has left the building.

Fourthly, relatively few people use more than the absolute basic functions of the program and using MS Office is mostly due to apparent lock-in and the "Lemming Effect".

Fifthly, the cost of maintenance, especially in the bigger organisations that use more than just the most basic functions, is huge.

Sixthly, the cost of MS Office is too high (even the Student Home Edition or whatever it is called) -- especially when compared to the actual functionality used by most people.

Seventhly, MS Office interoperability with other products (even previous versions of the program) is, to put it mildly, seriously lacking.

I find it difficult to accept that so many organisations (especially public bodies) that seriously lack money keep paying over the top for MS Office despite having a number of perfectly good alternative choices. I also find it difficult to understand that governments accept that some solutions that most (if not all) departments have to report into or use, demand the use of MS Office. Some organisations cannot archive their documents unless they are in MS Word format!

I keep MS Office 2003 as I often have to deliver proposals and reports in MS Office format (by customer demand) and I need to be fairly sure that what I write is what they see -- properly formatted. This is currently not guaranteed when using other products to make MS Word files.

So, all in all, I do use MS Word, but only because it is the only program that "interoperates" with MS Word -- i.e. vendor lock-in. Sigh!

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Stuck in the last decade

My employer has Office 2003. Then when customers started to send in those dreaded "xlsx" and "dpcx" documents, without a patch to be able to open them, we stuck OOo on to be able to do something. So they introduced an add-on? Well it was too late.

We may end up with a new version of Office when we get machine upgrades, but chances are we'll all be using OOo (or whatever it's called by then).

I most like my seemless experience between home and work. Not that we'll ever seem M$ Office for Linux that is.

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FAIL

Comparing OO with MSO

When I compared Office 2007 with OO 3.1 I found that as we had used MSOffice for years we had a considerable amount of documents in this format.

When I tried to open the documents in OO, the formatting was way, way off. 50 page documents would turn into 60 pages, etc. extensive re-editing would be required if we were to use OO.

If we were to give OO documents to our customers then they would face the same problem. Our documents would look messy and unprofessional on their MSOffice package.

We simply can't afford the time to re-editing our documents or face complaints from our customers due to bad looking documents.

Until OO faces this problem and fixes at least this one basic problem it'll never be competition for MSOffice. As much as I like the principles behind open source software OO needs to get its act together!

P.S.

IIRC early versions of Firefox had exactly this problem when compared with Internet Explorer. The layout of a web HTML document looked very very different between the two Browsers. Only when Firefox page layout started looking like IEs did it take off.

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Stop

Why give them doc format?

You should really be sending them PDFs.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't think OOO has a chance

Until the design becomes less flawed, there is no chance.

Create a simple document. Add some bullets. Save. Reopen and try print. Whoa, drunk document. Worse when coming from any other format. MS Word? Works first time every time. Even fixes the bullet breakages that OOO causes on it's own format. Word might be a dog - but a working dog.

Create a simple spreadsheet. Add some formulas. Save content as values-only. Open again. Whoa. Now try opening in Excel, as-is. Hey presto. Excel might be a donkey, but it's a donkey on speed.

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Anonymous Coward

"Create a simple document...."

FUD

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Office is Cheap

I don't see the problem with office, and I agree with Microsoft's video.

£100 for a piece of software is literally nothing. It's a false economy when morons start saying "Well we have 60,000 staff who use Office, we can save millions by switching to OpenOffice."

Sure you can. But a million between our 60,000 staff is still only £100 each. And £100 each is nothing compared to the cost/productivity each member of staff can lose by using software which isn't as well supported. A few hours of my work has more impact to the company than £100, it's just not worth a false saving.

It's exactly the same as it used to be with office managers who are tight with biro pens. A box of pens costs next to nothing, and the time wasted pleading for a pen is better spend.

The cost of support and the cost when things go wrong are the real costs and the price ticket difference makes no odds.

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Anonymous Coward

Not sure where you work

...but in my company, and most of my clients AFAIK, we don't even buy pens, pads, and post-its for our employees anymore. Microsoft has been the sacred cow for years, why I can't really explain, but how long is that really going to last?

At the end of the day, if you're really comparing like-for-like (which we're not, not completely... yet) saying it *only* costs me $100/employee to stay on what I'm comfortable with is not going to hold water. Furthermore, when it comes down to management by homegrown spreadsheets (which we do where I work) vs. keeping our crap in a form on a web server somewhere... the desktop management costs add up quick.

In the future, I see a lot of pressure to continue reducing costs and at some point, it's going to start hitting Microsoft's gravy train. For 60k employees $100/per is $6M - layoff 60+ employees or tell Microsoft (and your users) to piss up a rope because you're moving to OOo? Maybe not now, but at some point I can see companies starting to bite.

Just my $0.02...

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Anonymous Coward

Missing word

For 60k employees $100/per is $6M - layoff 60+ employees or tell Microsoft (and your users) to piss up a rope "fuckstick" because you're moving to OOo.

There, corrected that one for you.. Love the Rude Kid (Mrs Maybe's crazy baby) reference by the way.

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FAIL

Obviously not spending on dictionaries then...

£100 for a piece of software is not literally nothing: it is literally £100.

Good grief sir, Dictionaries may be expensive, but Google define: is free! Literally!

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Linux

Oracle shivers?

MS is worried that Oracle may once again take up the battle axe, this time pouring resources into OO. If Oracle can re-engineer OO into something that will lay OO-haters to rest, then MS has a fight in its hands...and mind you, Oracle can be one mean competitor...would be fun to watch the sharks battle it out

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Despite Matt's characterisation of OOo as «hapless»,

I've never found any reasons why a home user in need of an office suite would need to throw away good money to purchase Microsoft's costly - and buggy - product. Working now as he does for Canonical, Matt should be acutely aware of the fact that market share in a given field does not necessarily reflect performance and/or reliability differentials between the products available there. I agree his general point that Microsoft under the ineffable Mr Ballmer has looks more backwards than forwards, but badmouthing OOo in order to make it strikes me as gratuitous....

Henri

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Libre Visio?

I'd switch for an open source diagramming tool that could interchange .vsd files

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Anonymous Coward

As much as I want to like it

OpenOffice is just... icky.

Nothing they can't fix. And probably will fix. But at the moment if you need to create a document to meet a deadline and you choose OpenOffice, you'll be running into little niggles everywhere in short order. Not that the later iterations of MS Office are much better of course. And I suspect that is precisely MS's problem.

If there's something you can't do in Office 2003 then you're trying to do something outside the scope of an Office productivity suite. If you're a drooling simpleton maybe you'll find Office 2007 or 2010 genuinely more intuitive. But chances are, if that's your idea of intuitive, you don't get a lot of work done during your day job and should probably never have been employed to use Office in the first place.

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The reality of Office suite use

1. Trying to watch the video: a typical experience to remind me what life was like when I used to use MS software. The video is in Sılverlight. I am redirected to download the Moonlight plug in from Novell. I have to restart Firefox. (ahh restarting to get things done, a friend of mine installed windows 7 on a Toshiba laptop last week - the install that comes bundled with the computer - and had to restart *54* times during the process). Then the moonlight plug in refuses to play the video. No error message, nothing, it just sits and stares at me.

Then I notice that there is a WMV download option. Click that and Totem (Linux movie player) picks it up and plays it without problems.

2. Excel macros. Designed to be incompatible. Not surprising OO has difficulty. But OO should try to fix it.

3. Office use. My own experience, in a University, where almost all computer using employees are graduates, is that totals in spreadsheets are *routinely* added up using a calculator, then entered in. Yesterday I got a budget spreadsheet in local currency, dollar and euro from our highly intelligent admin assistant. All the currency conversions had been done by hand. In MS Word, *nobody* outside the Computer Science department uses styles. We use OO and convert, if we need to send editable documents to MS addicts.

Yes normal MS Windows users should all use Wordpad. It does far more than they need.

4. Compatibility. True, Open Office cannot read my archived Word1.0 documents. Neither can any version of MS Word after 2.0. My Word 2.0 install diskettes have corrupted, so I now have to mine the text out of these documents and reformat if I need to read them. True Story follows.

Two naive computer user friends. A: "I cannot open that .docx you sent me". B: "Oh you have an old copy of Office, but that's easy. Just download OpenOffice, then you can read the document and convert it to .doc". As most home copies of Office (with MS implicit approval) are illegal copies - updateing to the latest version is hard.

5. Finally, yes, OO is a bloated beast, too. The time has come for different ways of doing these jobs. The average user is only using 1% of the features in these Office suites. Excel is often used simply as a *layout* tool (amazing but true).

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Too late

I ordered a notebook on Friday without an installed OS. When it arrives today I will install Linux, Open Office and Wine. Wine will take care of Lotus SmartSuite.

Anything to avoid MS from now on.

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FAIL

Macros

Macros? Yuk. Macros are an ugly kludge from a time before even Microsoft Access, when user departments needed a little database but couldn't get the people in the IT department to approve it. Today you could set up a little browser app with a load of free LAMP tools.

Funnily enough, Microsoft are killing macros because they've moved developers onto .net. Developers really don't want to go back to fixing VBA now.

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Jobs Horns

Concerned about Oracle?

With Ellison now owning OpenOffice, and given his long-standing regard for the 'Softies, I expect the Vole is worried about actual *COMPETITION* (horrors!) in the office-suite market.

The Monopolist doesn't make much off all those OEM copies of 'Doze to the box-builders, but Office doesn't get discounted much, and drags the businesses into the whole Exchange/Sharepoint/etc infrastructure, where they can rake in the real money. Impact that and you truly start to cut into the bottom line.

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Free Software

It says something when a program is free and it still has almost no market share. And of course in the wonderful culture of open source, you can never discuss the problems or show the benchmarks. One of the main websites that talks about open office carefully segregates its benchmark results so you never see a straight-up comparison -- because open office is three or four times bigger and slower than MS Office. The open office spread sheet program frequently just crashes after a few minutes of manipulating a big excel file. If they want open office to gain market share, there has to be more than just a disinformation campaign...it has to actually not suck.

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Anonymous Coward

@Don Mitchell

"FUD, FUD, FUD, FUD......FUD, wonderful FUD etc

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My 2c

For what I use my office suite for, I'm not fussed. I have one version of office at work, a different one on my main PC and OOO on my netbook. I have to say though, that the worst interoperability issues I've faced have been from one office type to another. OO seems to just work more reliably than MS but its trade-off is that it can be pig ugly. Having said that, it's a tool. Yep, it's nice to have a pretty tool, but a shiney fancy hammer with a coloured grip still bangs nails into the wall doesn't it?

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FAIL

Try switch to different version of MSO

It is nightmare. At the place I work (large org), we stick with "ancient" MSO because:

"upgrade" from older version had created enough trouble for our template, macro, and not forget each version of Access is incompatible with each other.

Our file recording keeping software, only supports MSO, and only supports old version.

Budget isn't exactly good for hugely costly "upgrade" that will only break more things.

Matter of fact, if MSO can support earlier version better (like OOo does), it will be a huge improvement.

To those who argue "sending client word document", why exactly you want to do that for? Majority of things you send out from a normal business will be in PDF format. So you don't want client to change anything. For client editable form, I think most business would do it in online form of some sort.

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Anonymous Coward

I hope your company ...

keeps these microsoft version compatibility issues in mind when it is time to upgrade the software. OSS with a real, internationally recognized document format is the way to go.

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