The OpenOffice.org full software productivity suite is, in an odd way, Microsoft Office's largest competitor. Largest in that it's unknown in almost every corporate circle I've seen, and significant in that it provides -- for free -- almost everything the costly Microsoft Office does.
Sounds like a minor event, but Microsoft's Office productivity software suite brings in billions of dollars in revenue per quarter. It's one of the company's most lucrative software packages, and although there have been freely available alternatives for quite some time, Microsoft Office still reigns supreme for word processing and spreadsheets. One of Google's big problems with most of its products centers around offline access. Customers need to have an active internet connection to work with virtually all of its web-based products.
Will Google's word processing and spreadsheet programs start taking a larger bite out of Microsoft's Office by offering workable access without an internet connection? For some customers, yes. Tyler Dikman with Cooltronics says this move "gives Google a larger pool of users to go after with more potential to increase their market share. And it sends a wake up call to Microsoft that Google Docs is not some experiment. This is something Google is investing a lot of time and money to make work."
This may seem like a small step from Google Docs, but it's aimed squarely at Microsoft. Whether Google can make inroads into the office software productivity market remains to be seen. However, its efforts just took a large leap.
The computer itself is pretty impressive. Here's what you get for your $199: a 1.5GHz VIA C7 CPU, 512MB of memory, an 80GB disk, an Ethernet port, stereo speakers, and a DVD-ROM CD-RW drive. You also get an operating system called gOS and a full suite of software from OpenOffice.org. The operating system is specially designed to work with Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) applications like Gmail and Google Maps, and all software updates are free. The one thing you don't get is a monitor, but judging from the sidewalks of my neighborhood in Brooklyn, where working monitors routinely show up decorated with signs saying 'works perfectly!, please take,' that shouldn't be hard to remedy.
Big Blue will launch a new, free office-like product called Symphony. It will be available on the internet, and it is free.
According to The Wall Street Journal "Symphony is based on software available from Open Office." The same foundation is used for Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA) and Google's desktop applications processes. The product also has functions from Notes, a product IBM bought years ago. Notes was almost run out of the market by Microsoft. IBM hopes that the free software application will help it sell more recent versions of Notes, which includes e-mail and instant messaging.
Does the IBM launch matter? Probably not. Nor does the recent upgrade of Google Apps to include software similar to PowerPoint. Microsoft has about 500 million desktop applications running on PCs and the Journal writes the company has "sold 71 million licenses of its latest version of Office in the fiscal year ended June 30." The Office software sells for slightly more than $100.
Getting customers to leave Microsoft, with its huge installed base, is almost impossible.
Douglas A. McIntyre is a partner at 247wallst.com.
This week, Microsoft launched a missile across the bow of Google Apps, distributing a paper that posed eight specific questions companies should consider before deciding on using Google Apps. With many large companies opting to supplement existing Microsoft Office installations with the web-based Google Apps programs (word processing, spreadsheets, calendaring, e-mail), Microsoft may be stepping up to defend itself more in the near future.
Google itself and some of its larger customers have stressed that the goal is not to replace Microsoft Office (yeah, right), and that Google Apps simply fits some situations better than a full-blown copy or license from the not-free Microsoft Office software. Microsoft's litany of questions released this week included these:
- Companies should question the actual number of users Google has "within the enterprise"
- Google's history of releasing "incomplete products, calling them beta software"
- Desktop costs will rise for companies trying to offer both Microsoft Office and Google Apps
Capgemini, the largest computer consulting firm in Europe, will begin to market Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Apps to its corporate customers. It would have been hard for the big search company to get a better endorsement. Capgemini global outsourcing chief executive Paul Spence said, "Incorporating Google Apps Premier Edition into our offering is yet one more way that we are helping our clients adopt technological innovations within a robust and tested framework."
Google Apps has companies' e-mail, spreadsheet, word processing, and presentation software packaged into one bundle. The software operates on PCs with most of the processing being done on Google servers instead of one the PC itself, the way that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has done so far.
The move has to be considered as a fairly big blow to Microsoft Office. Since its launch, Google Apps has been characterized as a nice, inexpensive solution for small businesses. It does not appear to have been widely adopted even in that market, but having a large IT consulting firm offering the software could begin to change that perception.
Microsoft, which is beginning to market desktop software that operates on servers to compete with Google, does not need a big boost for Google right now.
Douglas A. McIntyre is a partner at 24/7 Wall St.
Do customers really want to take their spreadsheets, documents and other office items onto the web? Google (NASDAQ: GOOG)'s Docs & Spreadsheets think so, and it's been written about extensively here in the past. Still, customers are paying hand over fist for Microsoft's Office package, which tells the market that there are two things happening.
Are there folders now to organize documents just like in Windows? Yes. How about keyboard shortcuts? You bet. And directional justification for data contained in spreadsheet cells? Check. These new features may sound insignificant, but each one encroaches on what Microsoft Office has had for years with its pricey installed software packages. By contrast, Google Docs is completely free, is web-based and required no software beyond a current web browser (like Microsoft's own Internet Explorer or Mozilla's Firefox).
Add in the capability of creating charts for online spreadsheets and having revision histories available for any document you create -- all automatically -- and you can see Google Docs and Spreadsheets morphing into a miniature version of Microsoft Office. Now, it's not that Microsoft's Office package is going to feel threatened any time soon since there's still a large gap there, but every new feature Google introduces treads more and more onto Microsoft's territory. So the Google-Microsoft plot thickens . . .
The answer is bit complicated, so we'll attack the "Windows" question first. Microsoft licenses out the Windows operating system to almost all computer makers who then install it on the PCs they sell to the public and businesses (and everyone else). No customer probably told Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) or Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE: HPQ) that they wanted Windows -- there simply is no choice when buying a PC. Recent advances by Dell to make the free Ubuntu Linux operating system available on some PCs has happened, sure. But, the majority of the public just wants what they are used to, which is Windows. People love change, right? Wrong. There are then many (many) versions of Windows for servers and workstations that are sold as well.
Let's turn to Microsoft Office. Again, it brings in a ton of revenue to Redmond, even though there are full office productivity suites that compete with it. My guess is that many of you can't name one though -- and that is what Microsoft counts on, which is branding power. The full-featured OpenOffice productivity suite is pretty darn impressive (I've used it), and it's completely free and interoperable with Microsoft Office (not sure about Office 2007). Why don't more people use it then? Lack of knowing it exists is a possibility, and having to download the suite or order it for about $10 on CD may be obstacles. Plus, you can't find it on Best Buy shelves. If customers start becoming smarter and find out out about OpenOffice or even Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG)'s Google Apps, could a large piece of Microsoft's kingdom come crashing down?
[Disclosure: I own MSFT shares as of 5-29-07]
Google's Gmail (email), Calendar (scheduling), Docs (word precessing) and Spreadsheet (calculations) require nothing but a web browser and an internet connection, while giving many "light" users the same capabilities as the Microsoft Office package. All for free. Will Google's services remain free? Who knows. One thing is clear -- it's incredibly difficult to give something away for free, then start charging for it in the future.
Google is now packing its services for internet service providers (ISPs) and other web-based portals what have millions of customers as a way to get that package of productivity software out into the hands of even more users. Its Google Apps Partner Edition packages all of the above-mentioned applications and more to give Google internet partners a complete bevy of web-based applications they can offer customers as a value-added service. Google even offers a pay edition ("Premier") that promises guaranteed availability and more email storage than its free editions. Will customers pay for the upgrade? These efforts are icebreakers for Google in seeing if it can create a revenue model off service subscriptions and outside advertising.
Corel Corp. (NASDAQ: CREL) is a veteran of the tech world. One of its main products, WordPerfect, was one of the first word processors for the PC and despite the onslaught from Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), is still selling.
But there are a flood of alternatives now – especially online versions. In fact, Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) has been piecing together an Office-like suite of productivity applications, which it plans to sell for $50 per year.
According to an announcement today, Corel is about to fight back, launching a free online version of WordPerfect, called Lightning. It's currently in the beta phase.This looks like it is just the beginning and I'd expect more applications to be bundled to the Lightning.
Corel is taking a freemium approach, meaning that after users download the free version and use it, they might be more inclined to eventually buy the premium version.
On its face, it doesn't seem like it will get traction. However, Corel plans to partner with other companies so as to share revenues. And, over the years, Corel has put together a massive ecosystem of partnerships.
You can check Lightning out at the Corel Web site.
Tom Taulli is the author of various books, including the Complete M&A Handbook and the EDGAR-Online Guide to Decoding Financial Statements.
Hackers and software crackers have almost always had the seemingly-immediate capability to remove software and hardware anti-piracy protections from almost any piece of software imaginable, and almost as soon as the software shipped. In fact, the rate of undoing anti-piracy checks should make software makers spin in their offices. And, probably does to a large degree.
With license keys, activation checks and the newer "Windows Genuine Advantage" program, Microsoft has some formidable weapons to fend of the pirates of its software. But with Windows Vista and Office 2007 just about out on shiny retail shelves, the battle will once again heat up between Microsoft and, well, the rest of the world who wants to buy a single copy of either piece of software and install it wherever and whenever they please.
The range of opinions on the Google-Youtube marriage has had everyone talking this week, with some completely agreeing with the move and others vehemently against it.
One thing that got me thinking outside of the Youtube spotlight this week, though, was Google's release of is Docs & Spreadsheets web-based word processor and spreadsheet program that some say -- a little incorrectly, if you ask me-- that this is the start of the end for local applications like Microsoft Office.
Although I do see web-based productivity apps continuing to make headway, local apps like Microsoft Office or the free OpenOffice suite will always be with until high-speed Internet access is as ubiquitous as th air we breathe.
Here are some GOOG highlights from this past week:
Reflecting on what is right about Youtube -- and why Google sought to buy it
Celebrity deathmatch -- Google CEO vs. Mark Cuban
MySpace now seeking even deeper relationship with Google
Google code search product immediately attracts hacker community
Google VP Marissa Mayer's no-nonsense approach to meetings
Indeed, Microsoft is pushing hard to integrate its Office suite into "Office Live", which at some point int he future needs to probably replace that bulky retail box that comes with Microsoft Office when you buy it. So, does Microsoft see Office apps living entirely on the web as well? In some form, I think it does.
There will, however, always be a need to have a locally-installed Office productivity suite installed on millions of computers, unless Internet access is ubiquitous as the air we all breathe. I'm not sure about you, but there are times when, gasp, I actually do not have Internet access, but still need to get work done. There's a major scratch.
Are we close to "Web 2.0" of everything you use on a daily basis being "webified"? That will eventually happen, but as I stated above, you can't just port every single thing to a web browser and expect the globe to start using just a web browser for everything, no matter how heavily Google Inc (NASDAQ: GOOG) thinks this is going to happen. While many millions of customers will be easily wanting to just use a web browser to get most of their work done, that backup option will always need to be there for the future, I see.