Google and OpenOffice Sitting in a Tree

Nov 1, 2005

So apparently, Google is hiring programmers to work on OpenOffice. Microsoft has to feel threatened at the online search giant's latest move in the office document arena. Google is the one company that Microsoft simply cannot figure out. And I couldn't be any happier to see the folks up in Redmond sweat just a little. For too long they've been the bully on the playground. But a new kid has come to town, and he's beginning to look a little bigger than ever.

I don't have any facts on the matter, but Office has to be one of Microsoft's largest revenue generators. To have someone announce that they will offer a competitive solution, for free, is quite an obstacle. And it's Google's way in to several markets which Microsoft has owned since what feels like the dawn of time. This will certainly be the first arena where Microsoft will face true pressure. Lots of people claim that Linux is a threat to Windows, but that's just not true (at least not yet). The Linux world is too fragmented. There are too many flavors, everyone has his favorite, and no one wants to try another one. Until the Linux community can get that particular act together (not to mention the ease of use factor), the office application arena will be the main battlefield. And I'm glad to see another player has finally joined the game.

The whole thing should be interesting to watch. I question whether Sun's involvement will doom the project (seeing as Sun has doomed virtually everything else they ever touched), but perhaps Google's brains can prevent such a catastrophe. I, for one, salute our (hopefully soon to be) office application overlords.



5:32 PM on Nov 2, 2005
I never understand the "ease of use" comments on posts like this. Granted it's different then Windows, but does that make it hard to use? I use Linux (SuSE) everyday at work and at home and I find it extremely easy to use. Similar to the first time you sat in front of Windows95 after several years if @indows 3.1, you had the learn the "Windows way". After a couple weeks of non-stop Linux usage, it will be just as easy, if not more so.


5:53 PM on Nov 2, 2005
"Ease of use" probably was an over-simplification on my part. But, here's an example of what I was trying to get at: I recently tried to install the Ubuntu distribution on my computer (albeit in a VMWare session). After wrestling with getting VMWare to behave, and after finally getting the installer working, I'm prompted as to how I want to partition my hard drive. IIRC, the Windows XP installer *never* mentions partitions at all. It Just Works. It's my opinion that Mom and Pop would have a much easier time installing Windows XP than they ever would with a Linux distro. Windows XP asks questions like "What do you want to name your computer?" and "What's your name?" Linux wants to know how to partition the hard drive, what network settings to use, etc. Mom asks "what's a hard drive?" while Pop asks "how do I know what network settings to use?" Again, Windows XP just works. Don't get me wrong; I want Linux to succeed. But Linux needs to get their user-experience act together. There are too many flavors to choose from, each of which has its own unique bugs, features, and ideals. Your own comment sums it up perfectly: users need to spend a couple of weeks with Linux (non-stop) to learn how to use it. It shouldn't be that way. It should just work.


6:30 PM on Nov 2, 2005
I think there are to many folks setting up Windows computers who should not be. I will use your example above. Because I work in the computer industry, I mostly just fix broken Windows machines instead of setting up networks. I work with the general public so I see computers from the moms and pops, and as easy as it is to install, it still takes knowledge to do it right. Windows machines need to be cared for and petted to work properly. They need to be setup with user restrictions (like the by default action in the next Windows, Vista) and given the virus and spyware blockers, also. Automatic updates for all the software and Windows itself needs to be activated. Most OEM computers from retailers don't do that for the consumer.


7:22 PM on Nov 2, 2005
You're exactly right Greg. We are in this weird transition period in history. Many people in the "older" generation have never used computers, and know nothing about them. But virtually every kid today has played around with a computer at some point. As such, the mean amount of knowledge the public has about computing is going up. That can only be good in the long run (we can hope).


7:32 PM on Nov 2, 2005
I think your Ubuntu complaint is with VMWare, not Linux. And last time I installed Windows, it took 13 reboots and I still lacked hardware support for a number of my devices. And no, it didn't ask me about partitioning, it just stomped on my drive and used NTFS as the default file system. I think the point you mean to make is that the average user has not and will never have to install Windows, b/c it's already on there. So to compare apples to apples, you'd have to look at ease of use post install. If you take a Fedora Linux cd, and let it have the machine (no vmware, no dual boot) and let it auto partition, you'd not have run in to that jazz. The average user doesn't dual boot or run virtual machines. I also want to point out that though there are a great number of Linux distros available, Red Hat owns most of the market, a good portion of the rest goes to Red Hat based distros/workalikes and SUSE (which is more like Red Hat than it is differen). As for the rest, ISO just adopted the Linux Standards Base, which will help standardize things, and LSB compliant systems work the same where it matter. IMHO, OpenOffice getting backing by Google will help across the board, b/c no one really cares what OS they run, they care about the apps.


7:41 PM on Nov 2, 2005
Just to address a specific point you made, XP does ask if you want to partition, but that's water under the bridge. I understand your point. Installing and using a computer are definitely different levels of "usage". Computing at any level above your norm can be difficult on any platform. With distros like SuSE and Ubuntu, I think Linux has far surpassed the "ready for the desktop" stage. Again it's not Windows. If you wanted Windows, why would you look at Linux anyway? But regarding the article, once received "Base", the Access clone, I can't get enough of it despite it's speed issues. Sun, the company, may not have a computing "green thumb" any longer, but even will be hard to kill!


7:56 PM on Nov 2, 2005
Your points are well taken, Jeremy and Black_771. I honestly haven't spent a ton of time in Linux, so it's a world I'm not terribly familiar with. One of these days I hope to get yet another computer (preferably a laptop) so I can tinker with Linux. And yes, VMWare was probably the reason for my previous trouble. That's an amazing piece of software, but it definitely has its quirks. I also have yet to spend some time with OpenOffice. One interesting point that Microsoft has pointed out is that OpenOffice is not accessible (for those with disabilities). That's going to be a giant hurdle in OO's conquest for office application market share. The recent Massachusetts government stance on using OpenOffice raises this problem, since the US requires government agencies to support accessibility to some degree.

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