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.

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Companies: google, ibm, microsoft

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Comments on “Microsoft's Tough Night: Google And IBM Both Launch Free Office Products”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: more compatible than Linux

Are you serious? Linux is way more “compatiable” with hardware! It’s just that it’s still not as easy to use (for your typical corporate user) compared to XP/Vista.

I had to use a Linux LiveCD to get online to download NIC drivers for XP because XP didn’t regonize the hardware.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: more compatible than Linux

i for one have been using windows since 3.1 and know y way arround it in and out.

last year (or was it the one b4) when fedora 4 got released i decided to start using linux.

the main problem is most of us are so used to windows that it took me 3 weeks to crash fedora behod repair and decided to scrap the installation and go back to XP.

as for office 2007 stay away from it im sticking to my 2003 copy till i finally DL open office.

R3d Jack says:

Re: Compatible compared to what?

All hardware is made to work with M$ Windows, so Windows is always compatible with (the latest) hardware. The fact that Linux stays compatible demonstrates the amount of work that goes into compatibility.
So, don’t boast about M$. Compatibility has nothing to do with their software and everything to do with the hardware manufacturers bowing to the whims of a monopolist.

Samir Jalloul (user link) says:

Google And IBM Both Launch Free Office Products

IBM is in no position to “come up with an alternative to the evil vi$ta”, that is not a business model for a large company such as IBM. Bets are Facebook is already working on a Social OS, and can Google sneak an application or two via Facebbook? Chances are someone will, or they will find away for you and your friends to share and edits resumes, spreadsheets, presentation very possible!

Brian says:

Now only if...

It is amazing, we have advanced the Office suite beyond our wildest dreams, yet we can’t get that process of reading our own work (or better yet having a peer read it) before it is published.

“Just about 24 hours after continued to insist…” after, what again?

I’m not picking on this author, the trend is everywhere. Pick up a newspaper, magazine, advertisement, and even that flyer for the school fundraiser, and stare in amazement. Proof yet again that all the technological advances in the world cannot make up for a good education and that old-fashioned “read your paper before you turn it in” strategy.

Anonymous Coward says:

I started using OpenOffice on my home PC and I’ve never looked back. For 99.9999% of the world the OpenOffice suite has everything you need. Does it have a problems on occassion? Sure, but compare the cost of $0 vs $300+ for MS Office and I can live with the occasional glitch.

MS will always have a large share of the market but I believe the key word for the future is ‘share’. They won’t be able to dictate to the market file formats that only work with their software. Standard file formats will become a commodity leaving the software companies to compete on value added service such as collaboration, templates, etc.

Danny says:

Re: Re #6

I honestly have no clue why corporations spend so much money on MS Office anymore.

That would be due to a little security blanket called “brand name”. Like it not Microsoft Office is a will known and very popluar brand name. Yes there are plenty of cheaper and free alternatives to Office but Microsoft has an established track record in the eyes of businesses. Add that to the fact that businesses are too scared to try out a new product (and can you really blame a multimillion dollar corporation being scared to go out on a limb with a program whose unreliability may cost millions?) and Microsft has the recipe for a stranglehold.

On the home computer front Microsoft will be taken out visciously. For the 2-4 times a year I need to type something that WordPad/NotePad cannot handle I use OpenOffice as well.

Microsoft may convince a multimillion dollar company to spend thousands on Office but there is no way they can convince me to spend hundrends on Office for just my personal pc.

Michael (user link) says:

Microsoft as monopoly

I didn’t realize people were calling Microsoft a monopoly, but they are accusing them of monopolistic behavior. Bundled packages to undermine third party software, vendor lock-in agreements so they have to exclusively support Microsoft in order to do business with them, leveraging desktop dominance in order to push non-OS related software, etc. These are all practices they were found guilty of long ago, and to date there hasn’t been much change in their practices.

The bonus is that Google and IBM have been forced to do an end-run around the problem so they don’t have to deal directly with the Microsoft desktop. Thus we have Google Apps.

Killer Tofu says:

Re #8 & 9

#8, No, you are not the only one. Same circumstance here. Office at work, OO at home.

I know about the brand name. However, some states even (and you know how slow the government is) are starting to open their eyes.
I believe it was Vermont(? one of the new england states up there) declared that they will only use open office and open source format documents. No clue on how far they are into implementing that, but they did announce it a few months back (like at least 8).

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re #15

I do not understand the idea of training costs for using Open Office. It felt just as perfectly intuitive as M$ Office did.
They are just scared and like most people, resistant to change, even if for the better.
Training to use OpenOffice, lol. Silly silly silly.
Unless the user needed training to use even the basics of M$ office, which if they know how to use Office, they should know how to use OpenOffice.

dualboot says:

alternative office suites... yay!

I have been using OpenOffice.Org for about a year now, and it actually involved very little change on my part. Even better, I have it on both my ms and linux partitions and can swap documents between platforms w/out any file conversions. Googles docs are okay for most of my work, but occasionally I run into spreadsheet layouts it can’t handle. Still, I use it quite often for everything else, and I think the open source and free alternatives will force ms to be more competitive in the home user market. I won’t buy full-price again, but at $50 or so, would consider a future upgrade if it does something OO.Org doesn’t.

R3d Jack says:

Sold out

I used OO extensively a few years ago for writing a book. It a few key areas, it was better than M$ Office. Then, I went to graduate school, and OO didn’t have a grammar checker. Since then, I use my own computer at work, so I have M$ Office for their sake. (My true confession.)
Having said that, I may very well start using OO again for my writing, and just have both installed. IBM’s backing will simply make a good app better.

Mike Johnson (user link) says:

Projity with OpenProj has compete replacement of M

Microsoft is having a bad week !!! Projity has open sourced OpenProj, a complete replacement of Microsoft Project. OpenProj even opens existing native Microsoft Project files and is available on Linux, Unix, Mac or Windows. Microsoft Project costs $1,000 a copy …. OpenProj is free ! Project is part of the Microsoft Office family of products and is their largest profit margin SKU. It drives over $1billion in revenue, or did before OpenProj. Microsoft Project resides on 7% of all Office desktops so this is a huge addition to the efforts of Google, Sun, Novell and IBM in offering alternative Office suites to Microsoft. There has been Word, Excel and Powerpoint replacements, there is now a key replacement for Project. The OpenProj solution has been downloaded over 100,000 times in the first month. Projity has both desktop and SaaS solutions so this is a major addition to Google Applications online Office and IBM/Sun’s desktop Office suite. This is huge, way to go Projity !!!!!!

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