Some things never change, and our reliance on a word processor, spreadsheet application and presentation tools has made Microsoft a lot of money. “Office” as we all know it resides on most PC’s and we use it all the time. I know I couldn’t live without Excel and its formula’s take a lot of strain off my frontal lobe.
Well, now the other big players in the enterprise productivity space are throwing resources behind “office clones” and developing their own suite’s.
Who are the players, and how can you get involved?
Google began developing Google Docs and Spreadsheets actively last year and yesterday they launched an addition to the suite, namely the much anticipated Presentation application. This product is entirely web based and acessible by anyone who has a Google email account. They have also simplified the name to Google Docs. I have tested the presentation module, and I’m impressed! It integrates seamlessly with their storage and document management and is very easy to use. It remains true to their vision of “keeping things simple” and doesn’t have all of the power features that are available in traditional offline products. The major benefit is that its web based and can be accessed from anywhere, which will capture the student/traveler/nomad market who don’t always sit down in front of the same PC. Click here for a demo.
My Rating: 7/10 Potential to own market 7/10
The Google Pack is a free downloadable collection of Windows software that includes StarOffice. StarOffice is built by Sun and is a great alternative to the incumbent office suite. It works great and is almost ready to replace Microsoft as my default office suite. The suite includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and more. The pack also includes most of the free software that is essential to todays workplace such as Adobe Reader, Firefox, Norton and Spyware Doctor. All this for free in one easy download, makes for a great alternative at an even better price.
My Rating: 8/10 Potential to own market 5/10
OpenOffice.org 2.3 incorporates an extensive array of new features and enhancements to a pretty well established product. The fully featured suite has been a resident on my desktop for the last 2 years, and is a favorite for Linux users. Unfortunately with Google’s endorsement of StarOffice, I think they may struggle to gain mass appeal in the future. The product is very clean, has all the advanced features and interpenetrates nicely with Microsoft formats. Its a great alternative and one worth watching if you are keen on an off line application.
Rating 6/10 Potential to own market 4/10
Launched today IBM’s Lotus Symphony Office Suite is the newest entrant in this very competitive industry. IBM has a lot of brand equity in the enterprise market and they will be hoping to leverage this in order to gain mass adoption. From my limited testing, the product looks good, features are impressive and their approach to automation and document management is something to watch. IBM has also joined forces with Google, so we may see Lotus Symphony included in the Google Pack very soon.
Rating 7/10 Potential to own market 7/10
So whats the silver bullet, how do Sun, Google and IBM plan to topple Microsoft’s dominence in this space? The answer is the OpenDocument format. OpenDocument Format is based on an Internet-era protocol called XML, short for Extensible Markup Language, which enables automated machine-to-machine communication. Microsoft has the same goal of software automation, but it endorses its own document format, called Office Open XML. Earlier this month, Microsoft failed in its initial effort to have Office Open XML ratified as a global technical standard by the International Organization for Standardization in Geneva. The opportunity the others propose is one of an open standard while still including support for existing Microsoft file formats. Through collective development and offering these products for free, it will be a hard long road, but these 3 companies believe they have a product worth supporting. Only time will tell, but its great for the consumer and productivity in general.