Suddenly Everyone Wants An Online Office Suite

from the how-to-compete? dept

Just a couple weeks ago, we noted that both Google and IBM were coming out with free products that competed with Microsoft's dominant office suite offering, noting that it was looking increasingly like Microsoft supposed monopolistic domination of the space might not be as strong as some (i.e., European regulators) believed. It certainly looks like more companies smell blood in the water. Adobe has now announced that it has purchased Virtual Ubiquity, makers of an online word processor called Buzzword, just to throw some more well-backed competition into the space. Of course, at some point, you have to wonder how this market shakes out. Obviously, Microsoft is still dominant, but can that continue when it charges so much against free products? The real question, though, may be what everyone else in the market can do to compete. We recently had the Techdirt Insight Community tackle exactly that issue for a client, and the experts there came up with a few key areas that online office suite providers should specialize in to differentiate themselves from both Microsoft and Google in the space. We can't share that specific analysis, but if you're in that space and want the Community to help you craft a strategy to stand out and succeed, contact us.

In the meantime, while I can't reveal what they said, I can give you my own quick analysis for free. It's going to be very difficult for most of these online office suites to get much traction if they don't have a larger platform to plug into. Players like Zoho and Thinkfree are basically trying to build that platform from scratch, but they'll probably need to open up more to third party developers if they want to really gain traction. Google can succeed in the space, in part just by being Google -- but also as it continues to integrate its office suite offerings into other parts of Google. If and when Google finally does realize that it's become a platform play, then perhaps they'll open up the ability to develop apps on top of Google's office apps as well. On Adobe's side, they're trying to build this platform, but it's unclear how much adoption it's really getting or how well they'll be able to integrate this new purchase into the platform play.

Filed Under: office suites, online
Companies: adobe, google, microsoft


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  • identicon
    James, 1 Oct 2007 @ 8:29am

    Markets

    I think the important thing to realize here is markets and market segmentation. Microsoft is the dominant player in Office suite software for a reason... they are the best. Don't like that synoposis? Fine. Find a competitor with a better product. Like it or not (EU) in the business marketplace Microsoft has won because they had/have a superior product that people buy and use, and if you don't, you're at a disadvantage when dealing with other co-workers and businesses.

    Now for personal use.. there is lots of room for competition. Free can work here, not everyone needs to pay a few hundred dollars for a full-on office suite when a freebee can do the task (ie.. OpenOffice, et. al). If you're talking about mom-and-pop or individuals there are free choices and that really is a good thing.

    I'm all for competition but before you knock Microsoft because they own the market, simply because you don't like them, you'd better be willing to put up or shut up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ken, 1 Oct 2007 @ 8:34am

    on line editors

    If google or others wanted to hit an online or downloadable home run, they should look at wysiwyg html editors to compete with FP / Expression Web or Page Maker... I am an open office fan and edit several news web sites... A great easy to uses editor with less overhead and cleaner code would be a blessing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Haywood, 1 Oct 2007 @ 8:51am

    Interoperability will be the key

    What we don't need is a bunch of competing formats, with less than 100% compatibility. It needs to be; that a document opened in any platform looks exactly the same, spacing, font, attachments, footnotes, everything. I'm a fan of monopolies when they make life easier and better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      comboman, 1 Oct 2007 @ 9:21am

      Re: Interoperability will be the key

      What we don't need is a bunch of competing formats, with less than 100% compatibility. It needs to be; that a document opened in any platform looks exactly the same, spacing, font, attachments, footnotes, everything. I'm a fan of monopolies when they make life easier and better.

      They do? Ever try to open a Word 95 file in Office 2007? Microsoft changes their document format so often they can't even maintain compatibility with themselves. And the only reason they do it is to keep the competition from figuring out their formats and becoming compatible. If you're truly a fan of 100% compatibility then dump proprietary formats like Microsoft and use an Open Document Format suite like Open Office.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Haywood, 1 Oct 2007 @ 12:50pm

        Re: Re: Interoperability will be the key

        Actually I did that recently, word 2007 announced it needed a patch to run the older file, it then proceeded to download the patch, install it and open the doc. I'm not an MS fan boy, I don't care if the industry standard comes from open office, or Lotus, or whoever. I just want to open docs sent by others without looking for an interpreter, and would like to offer others the same courtesy. I know .TXT already offers that, but not with much style.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    sam, 1 Oct 2007 @ 9:15am

    hi mike....

    it is with a great deal of laughter that i read what you write regarding the issue of online office apps. not because of the topic, but because of your statement about not being able to "release" your results!!

    what i'm about to say will probably cause your legions of fans to scream and howl. so be it.

    you're a hypocrite.

    you have pounded the table for quite sometime, that the music industry (ie musicians) should essentially give their music/bits away, and use them as a means of driving other revenue sources. why can't you in this case do the same thing. why can't you release your results and in effect use the results to somehow drive other revenue sources??

    are you going to say, it's because the results that you create are in fact the primary way you drive revenue? Hopefully you won't use this argument, as i've stated on numerous times that the artist uses the music/bits as a way to drive their revenue, and you've pretty much said they need to adapt!

    are you going to say you'd have no issue releasing the results, but the client paid for them, and the results are the client's property? give the client back their money, and release the results. the client wouldn't care, they'd get your work product for free!

    would you mind if i somehow got the bits, and placed them on the net, for any/all to copy? hopefully you wouldn't, as you've long said that musicians/artists should look at that kind of action as a way to promote the other revenue generating functions the artist should be engaged in.

    you see mike, bits are bits. and you the owner, have the right to pretty much do what you want to do with them, and i as a person who might want your bits should abide by your rules.

    so, i ask you mike, what reason can you give for not "releasing" the results, that wouldn't be able to be said from the artist's point of view?

    peace...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 1 Oct 2007 @ 9:34am

      Re:

      Ah Sam,

      Always good to hear from you, because if there's one thing I can guarantee, it's that you will misinterpret what I've said, and not bother to understand the details. Usually it's because you think I'm advocating infringement when I'm not. In this case, it's an even more egregious misunderstanding. Next time, before you say something like:

      you're a hypocrite.

      Maybe you should take the time to understand what I've actually said.

      you have pounded the table for quite sometime, that the music industry (ie musicians) should essentially give their music/bits away, and use them as a means of driving other revenue sources. why can't you in this case do the same thing. why can't you release your results and in effect use the results to somehow drive other revenue sources??

      Indeed. And we do give away lots of our research (go ahead and look). In this case, though, the research is not ours to give away. Our contracts are pretty clear that we don't own the research that the community creates. Each individuals owns the rights to his or her own content. If they want to give it away, they are free to. At the same time, whoever commissioned the research is also free to do what they want with it, including give it away.

      However, as I've also explained to you (and I guess you've ignored), is that one of the models for paying for content is to pay for the creation of content, rather than content after it's been created. That's because content before it's created is scarce -- so that's exactly what we've done. Companies pay for the creation of the content, and then *they* get to decide what to do with it, as to the individuals who created the content. We'd love it if they decided to give it away and give us more publicity, but it's their decision, not ours.

      are you going to say, it's because the results that you create are in fact the primary way you drive revenue?

      I won't because it's not true, as I explained above (and as I've explained in the past).

      are you going to say you'd have no issue releasing the results, but the client paid for them, and the results are the client's property? give the client back their money, and release the results. the client wouldn't care, they'd get your work product for free!

      Here's your usual misunderstanding, claiming that we're saying that it's ok to give away other's content without authorization. We've never said that, despite your claims.

      However, there's a third misunderstanding here too, and it concerns the value of different types of content. When you're talking about mass market content, such as songs, movies or TV shows, you want it to be as widely spread as possible, and that's what drives the price down to zero.

      When you talk about custom research, the value is only to a tiny group of people (or even just one person), and therefore, the value is in only that person having it. The economics here are quite different.

      would you mind if i somehow got the bits, and placed them on the net, for any/all to copy? hopefully you wouldn't, as you've long said that musicians/artists should look at that kind of action as a way to promote the other revenue generating functions the artist should be engaged in.

      As I have said, if the content creators and/or those who commissioned the content want to free it for promotional purposes, that's up to them. We do not, and never have, supported the idea that someone else should take the content and free it. For you to continue to claim that is simply wrong. I cannot tell if you do it on purpose or if you really just can't understand this simple fact.

      so, i ask you mike, what reason can you give for not "releasing" the results, that wouldn't be able to be said from the artist's point of view?

      As described above, it completely fits with the economics we put forth here and it always has.

      Thanks for checking, though.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      kneeL, 1 Oct 2007 @ 11:20am

      Re: by sam

      nice try sam,
      Techdirt is also not running around spending billions to sue people who copy its work. If there was work that was paid for and they got it stolen, I bet they would handle it alot better than the RIAA/MPAA such as you made a comparison. Sorry that is the most ridiculous comparison and invalid statement anyone has ever made here. But hey I guess trolls need something to bicker about, so carry on.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    sam, 1 Oct 2007 @ 11:05am

    hi mike...

    as usual.. you put words where i didn't say them.

    no where in my reply did i say you advocate infringement. in fact, what i stated was that you continually say that the artist should bend/adapt/use the music as a promotional tool to generate revenue through other means.

    what i have continually stated, is that while there might be other avenues to generate revenue, and that using music/content as a loss leadeer might make sense, it's up to the artist (or whoever) as the owner of the content to be able to make that decision, and that no one has the right to simply "take" the artist's content because they choose to.

    you see, i believe that if a person creates the bits, the person gets to control what happens to the bits. if i don't like the price they're charging, i can simply choose to not play their game.

    if you and i can agree on this crucial point, then we might actually be close on this issue.

    as to the ownership of the bits you guys create, and the contraclual issues you mentioned, i'm 90% sure that if you walked into one of your clients, and told them that you wanted to do work for free, that you then wanted to give away, they'd jump for joy. (as long as it was properly redacted!!) i recognize that you give away plenty of what you describe as content for free. i also don't see you giving the jewels of what you do which generates revenue, away for free, or as a way to drive revenue for 'other' ventures, like oven mitts!!

    your ability to separate "custom" content and to claim that this is somehow scarce, is specious at best. the artist who makes his song can also claim that it's scarce, as he may only make a few 1000 of them in his lifetime. but that's not really the principle issue. the seminal issue comes down to what the owner can do, and ownership of the bits!


    peace...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Poomer, 1 Oct 2007 @ 11:47am

      Re: Sam vs. Mike knockout pay-per-view :)

      In the first round, I agree with Mike's responses to Sam's low blows.
      However, in round 2, Sam followed up with convicted shots to the upper torso of the delicate but agreeable scenario that Mike himself had suggested in his articles - artists need to adapt to technology and generate revenue thru other methods.

      Sam has delivered in round 2 and we now await Mike's responses in round 3! This will surely be a match you wouldnt want to miss!! Dont touch that keyboard, as we return to the Online-Boredom-1on1 match at techdirt!!

      woot!! ^^

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 1 Oct 2007 @ 11:49am

      Re:

      you see, i believe that if a person creates the bits, the person gets to control what happens to the bits. if i don't like the price they're charging, i can simply choose to not play their game.

      I've never said anything differently. However, what I have said in addition to this is that, as the creator of content, you need to recognize the economic trends, and realize when the business model you're using is no longer going to work. That's the case in the recording industry these days.

      as to the ownership of the bits you guys create, and the contraclual issues you mentioned, i'm 90% sure that if you walked into one of your clients, and told them that you wanted to do work for free, that you then wanted to give away, they'd jump for joy.

      Indeed, but again, you are missing the crucial point: the creation of content is not free. I've never said it should be free. I've always said that a good business model is to pay for the *creation* of content, not the continual reuse of that content. So we wouldn't offer to create content for free, because that's giving away a scarce good for free. You always want to give away non-scarce goods for free, not the scarce ones.

      i recognize that you give away plenty of what you describe as content for free. i also don't see you giving the jewels of what you do which generates revenue, away for free, or as a way to drive revenue for 'other' ventures, like oven mitts!!

      Again, you are confused. It has nothing to do with keeping the crown jewels. We DO NOT charge for content. We never have. What we are charging for is connecting you to the experts and the *creation* of new content from those experts. The content itself is a separate issue.


      your ability to separate "custom" content and to claim that this is somehow scarce, is specious at best. the artist who makes his song can also claim that it's scarce, as he may only make a few 1000 of them in his lifetime. but that's not really the principle issue. the seminal issue comes down to what the owner can do, and ownership of the bits!


      Again, you appear to have misread what I wrote. Content, once created, is no longer scarce. What I claimed was scarce was the content *before* it's created, because it doesn't exist. Therefore, you need to create the incentives for that content to be created. However, once it *IS* created, then it becomes much more difficult to resell, because the economics are completely different.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Poomer, 1 Oct 2007 @ 11:58am

        Re: Re: Mike knockout pay-per-view :)

        Mike has delivered a superb performance in round 3. He has shown composure when his followers thought he was going to give up. He once again raises his standards and delivers an exciting word fight.

        Now the question remains: Does Sam give up, or are we going to have another exciting round 4 of this exhilerating series? Stay tuned to techdirt!

        LoL

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Poomer, 1 Oct 2007 @ 12:22pm

    frown

    frowning at techdirt for my article did not post! >.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2007 @ 12:44pm

    Microsoft dominates in the office space because corporations & gov't have adopted it as a standard (yeah, it is proprietary standard but if I send you my C.V. in MS word odds are you can open it). The adoption of MS office facilitates business and governmental communication so it is wildly successful.

    But that's only part of the story. Many types of business applications have API's that can send and receive data to/from MS Office applications. (How many of you have an ERP software package at your company that can dump data directly to Excel or use an Access ODBC connection to retrieve data from a corporate database?)

    Google, Adobe and others will find a market in small business and individuals but larger corporations are 'stuck' until these alternatives can offer viable API's to corporate applications and data bases.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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