Feeds

Microsoft's fear of an OpenOffice

When 94 per cent ain't good enough

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Open...and Shut 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 its hapless open-source competitor, OpenOffice.

An acknowledgment of a genuine threat, or an act of foolishness?

Probably both. Even at the most optimistic analyses of OpenOffice's market share, it's still a pebble in Microsoft's shoe. Google Docs is a far more daunting competitor, given that it has a big name (Google) and a big trend (the web and software as a service) going for it.

OpenOffice? Today it's little more than a rerun of the best and worst of Microsoft Office. It's simply not a threat to Microsoft's Office monopoly, but the video makes Microsoft look "petty, paranoid, and bullying," as IBM vice president of Open Systems and Linux Bob Sutor told me.

It's not as if Microsoft doesn't have bigger challenges facing it. Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer continues to believe that "people want everything they can do on their PC and more" on tablets, but Apple has clearly demonstrated the opposite. We actually want to do different things with our iPads and devices like Android phones.

Things other than Office. Really.

As I've noted in this column before, Microsoft needs to look forward, not backward. It may be convenient for the company to fetishize old markets as it seeks to move its market share needle from 94 per cent to 94.3 per cent. But who cares? Microsoft could claim every single dedicated OpenOffice user and it wouldn't even ripple the surface of its revenue.

Of course, it's possible that Microsoft sees something the wider market doesn't yet see: momentum building for Office defections. The Register's Kelly Fiveash suggests: "By declaring such a threat, it would seem that Microsoft just admitted that it's worried about losing market share in an area where it has been unshakeable for years."

If true, it would seem that the last thing Microsoft would want to do would be to dignify its competition with a formal campaign. Remember its "Get the Facts" campaign against Linux? That one worked wonders for Linux, putting the upstart operating system on the radar screen of a huge swath of CIOs who probably hadn't given Linux much thought up until that point.

The same may well be true of its anti-OpenOffice screed. The more Microsoft acknowledges competition from OpenOffice, the more competition it will get. That is hardly sane behavior for a software giant intent upon milking its legacy Office business for as long as people keep buying it.

This isn't the first sign that Microsoft is worried about OpenOffice. It advertised for a "compete lead" against OpenOffice in late 2009, and has called out OpenOffice as a competitive threat here (warning: Word Doc) in its annual reports.

But this feels different. This feels more like Microsoft's Get the Facts campaign, and less like a thinly veiled attempt to pretend to antitrust authorities that it has real competition. But the odd and sad thing is that, if true, it's Microsoft acknowledging competition in a market that five years from now no one will care about. ®

Matt Asay is chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfreso's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open-source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears every Friday on The Register.

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
Red Hat to ship RHEL 7 release candidate with a taste of container tech
Grab 'near-final' version of next Enterprise Linux next week
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.