Microsoft's Tough Night: Google And IBM Both Launch Free Office Products
from the on-your-toes... dept
Just about 24 hours after continued to insist that Microsoft is a monopoly that needs to be restricted, three major tech companies demonstrated why that might not be the case. First up, Google rolled out their long awaited presentations capabilities to Google Docs. Google continues to insist that this is merely a “feature” added to the Google Docs offering, but obviously, this is a light version of PowerPoint. Still, Google seems to recognize that this isn’t a full featured offering just yet, and the announcement plays up the biggest strength of Google Docs that can’t be matched by Microsoft’s Office Suite: the real-time collaboration ability. That’s what made the original Writely so useful, and Google seems to recognize that and know to focus on it. My quick test of the software suggests that it works pretty much exactly as you’d expect it to — which means it’s quite simple to pick up and use.
While the Google announcement may be more important long-term, it’s also worth noting IBM’s decision to offer a free downloadable office suite. Way back when, IBM bought Lotus and tried to compete with Microsoft in the online collaboration, email and office suite arena — and pretty much failed miserably. Sure, there were an awful lot of legacy customers (especially on things like Notes) who kept sending cash to feed the cash cow, but it was clear many years ago that the offering was losing to Microsoft. In recent years, there’s been a new interest in office suite applications with the various online offerings from the likes of ThinkFree, Zoho and Google — as well as via the open source desktop office suite client OpenOffice (and Sun’s StarOffice variant). Last week, IBM threw its support behind OpenOffice, and the new free “Lotus Symphony” suite is going to be based on that platform. This could lead to two important things. First, if IBM dedicates increased resources to improving OpenOffice, it can become an even stronger competitor to Microsoft’s office suite (and it’s already pretty strong) — similar to the way that IBM added some heft to Linux. However, more importantly, the IBM brand name is likely to go a lot further in enterprises than OpenOffice (or even Sun’s StarOffice).
Finally, as we’ve already discussed, Yahoo’s Zimbra purchase gives it a path into enterprise collaboration software as well. If you’re Microsoft right now, it would seem you have pretty good evidence that a strong market position is no guarantee of keeping competitors out of the market.