05.23.08

Why Microsoft Office is in Trouble; Debunking Microsoft Goodwill

Posted in America, Antitrust, Deception, Europe, ISO, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 6:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Office Reveals Pains, Exposes Its Achilles Heel

Steven JVN, whose opinions may be biased yet very insightful, has just unleashed a couple of curious blogs items. In his personal blog he wrote to say that Microsoft can’t support OOXML:

If Microsoft can’t give users a compelling reason to switch from their old version of Office to Office 14 their cash-flow is going to slow down considerably.

Over at Computer World he argues that Microsoft Office may be in trouble, citing (or at least repeating) some of the observations made earlier in his blog.

And, now Microsoft isn’t hurrying to support its own format, but it is moving to support PDF and ODF… Could it be that all those copies of Office 2007 Microsoft boasts of selling are collecting dust at reseller and retailer warehouses instead of being used on office systems? Could users be sticking with their older copies of Office and when they do want to move to something newer, they’re moving to OpenOffice and Google instead?

Interesting isn’t it?

It is worth reminding readers that sales of Microsoft Office declined in the last quarter. This is unusual and Robert Cringely had some interesting interpretation of this last week.

What Authorities Say

Microsoft loves to label us all “zealots” and wishful thinkers if we dare to question its market strength and/or criticise its technical output, such as OOXML. Consequently, one of the more effective ways to counter The Beast is to cite not pundits or individual companies with vested interests but impartial sources instead. The mainstream media isn’t such a source because it's corporations-funded and corporations-influenced; even the BBC is no exception.

State studies, on the other hand, which are funded by states themselves (taxpayers, i.e. consumers/citizens, not corporations or corporation-backed universities) are of relevance here. Slashdot has just brought to readers’ attention this Minnesota State study about document formats, which could accompany the recent New York State study [1, 2]. It supports the idea that one single format is preferable, yet it’s not being specific as to which one.

The response of the European Commission, which has been studying this case of electronic document formats for a very long time, is worth special attention also. We bring to you a group of new articles about this:

1. Microsoft’s ODF Policy Gets Skeptical Reception From EU

Little sooner had Microsoft announced upcoming Office support for the Open Document Format than the European Commission countered that it will investigate to make sure such a measure actually ensures greater consumer choice. Microsoft’s Office 2007 will support ODF once the suite’s Service Pack 2 comes along. It’s expected in the first half of 2009.

2. Microsoft’s embrace of ODF cautiously welcomed

A looming concern is if Microsoft’s implementation of ODF within Office will handle documents with the same or better performance as competing suites. Microsoft has been criticized for embracing a particular standard but using subtle means within its software to subvert it.

3. All eyes on how Microsoft pulls off ODF support

European Commission, weary of dealing with Microsoft, will put the software giant under the microscope

4. EU to investigate Microsoft file format support.

Microsoft’s move, also announced Wednesday, is seen as a concession to regulators concerned about competition and to customers, mainly governments, worried about product lock-in.

5. Critics Blast Microsoft Despite ODF Support Pledge

Microsoft said it’s going to build native ODF support into Office 2007. But is that enough to satisfy the rival camp after a lengthy debate over OOXML?

That last one comes from an author who is typically biased in favour of Microsoft, so do not be deterred by the wording.

Other Reactions

Glyn Moody’s fast reaction over at Computer World UK is worth a quick mention because he uses the analogy which many people have been using and puts it right there in the headline:

Should We Fear the (Redmond) Geeks Bearing Gifts?

As well as this unexpected backing, proponents of ODF should also find their hand strengthened once OpenOffice.org 3.0 appears. By all accounts it’s a good step up from version 2.0, and that was markedly better than 1.0. All-in-all, then, things are looking up for open source office suites in enterprises: now might be a good time to go on the offensive.

One article that we mentioned earlier (“South Africans don’t understand OSS – Microsoft”) cannot escape without further comment, such as this response which comes along with the headline: “Chickens don’t understand coop–Fox.”

It replaces some of Microsoft’s own words, without exactly paraphrasing Microsoft. It’s mildly amusing.

Despite having a chicken-coop strategy, chickens don’t really understand how to benefit from coops. This is according to Fox director of corporate standards, Wile E. Reynard.

“‘Chickens have taken a most unfortunate position of late–they have sought to put a political mandate in place for the adoption of coops with locks,’ Reynard writes…”

That’s just pretty much the situation and the way Microsoft responds to it in South Africa. The difference is: Microsoft does not tell the audience that Microsoft Office is vendor lock-in.

"Open!"

"XML!"

"Open XML!"

"Choice!"

What choice? Choice between office suites? Pay attention to the Malaysia story where Microsoft deliberately confuses or interweaves office suites and formats. It just loves that spin!

ooxml_demo_4.jpg

Previous posts about Microsoft’s ODF policy announcement:

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4 Comments

  1. tom said,

    May 24, 2008 at 9:25 am

    Gravatar

    This is very interesting in the context of MS Office sales:
    http://www.microsoft.com/poland/office/konkurs/
    It’s in Polish, but it’s quite self-explanatory: buy MS Office 2007 Home and you can win a car! There was also some similar contest connected to X-Box, but I don’t know a link to it.

    What’s more interesting, Microsoft recently began to intensively advertise itself and it’s consumer products (MSO and X-Box) in daily press and in radio – so far (at least in Poland) you could find MS ads only in computer magazines (and of course in the Internet), and they were targetting rather professional users.

    Looks like MS is desperately looking for sources of income.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 24, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Gravatar

    I could add the fact that they offer Office 2007 almost for free to students in some countries (a discount of about 80%). It’s about getting people locked in (backward compatibility), among other things like dependency on interfaces and habits. it’s inertia that makes Office a ‘standard’ (de facto).

  3. tom said,

    May 25, 2008 at 7:16 am

    Gravatar

    yes, this is also the case in Poland – there are some special programmes for universities (MSDN Academic Aliance) – students can get some MS software free of charge (what is interesting, MS Office is excluded form the programme, at least in Poland). Of course, they can use it only for non-commercial purposes.

    It is also worth mentioning that the price of MS Office 2007 Home has been recently decreased in Poland. It’s now 199 PLN (about $100), and before September 2007 the price was at least 380 PLN. So now It’s half the original price.
    Of course, this is nothing bad that they lowered the price, but it was the first remarkable sign that they are slowly begining to loose the Office monopoly in the consumer market. One could argue that it was all about fighting “piracy” (according to some recent studies, about half of the proprietary software used in Poland is used with out a license), but on the other hand MS could make such a move long time ago – it just wasn’t a problem for them as long as people used their software (and their proprietary technologies). Recently, more and more people are aware of alternatives and everybody knows what consequences it can have.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 25, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Gravatar

    Prescription drug gradually going generic. This has already happened to CMS software.

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