The second tier, albeit with ambition, StarOffice(TM) office suite software package from Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:SUNW) has finally made a name partner for the download universe. Enter Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). The StarOffice suite is now available through the Google Pack software download service. This may actually be the one of the more true unification of Sun’s office software suite that is compatible with Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Office documents, but this is merely a small battle win in war that has been mostly lost. Part of the reasoning for this statement is easy: If it’s free, then what is the incentive?
Maybe this new web search functionality within the suite is a help, but it is hard to imagine that very much of the tech geared technorati out there is going to instantly dump MS Office 2007 (or 2003) for the sudden cost savings. Even if this is compatible under the OpenOffice and in support of the Open Document Format, how many businesses and how many well to do tech-oriented persons are going to TRULY dump Microsoft? Exactly. I have had hopes for Linux for literally 8 years and can even remember my first "Linux For Windows" software package that was nothing more than a demo after it was all said and done.
Linux in theory is great. StarOffice(TM) in theory is great. Open Office and the Open Document Format is great, in theory. But when governments and major businesses use the Microsoft linchpin OFFICE the rest of this is just theory as far as total dollars spent is concerned. Open source software is a great concept, but the fact that most of the initiative was too open has created a model set to fail. It takes more than brains alone because the money flow and incentive has to be there. Until a major "Linux-Only" initiative comes marching down Wall Street with Wall Street’s blessing then we are just having a theoretical discussion.
The truth is that we’ll probably try this out personally. But we aren’t scrubbing our Microsoft programs yet. Until all of these new initiatives are able to get a major world government to unilaterally dump Microsoft for one of these open source formats then this is still cottage industry that will stay a cottage industry. The cottage may turn into a manor, but that manor hasn’t proven it can become a citadel. These are controversial statements and some readers may think "these are fighting words," but so far history has been more than on Microsoft’s side.
We have cheered for a dual system universe since the 1990’s, but here we are still wishing. Same old same old. We may be running much of the same version of a future story in 10 years. Maybe by then the prevalence of alternative software may have taken more share. VMware’s (NYSE:VMW) virtualization packages may help this process, but in case you hadn’t noticed none of the ‘add on’ and virtualization packages out there really get rid of Microsoft and its expensive bulky products. Most of us will still probably be buying some form of Office or Windows for another generation, if not more.
Sometimes the easiest solution isn’t the best solution, even if it makes sense in the long haul. Logic dictates that a citadel can have many cottages, but not many cottages will become citadels.
Jon C. Ogg
August 16, 2007
Jon Ogg can be reached at email@example.com; he does not own securities in the companies he covers.