Microsoft Office still owns the desktop, future of StarOffice unclear

Microsoft Office still owns the desktop, future of StarOffice unclear

Summary: Since the Oracle acquisition of Sun, there’s been no official word yet on the road map for Star Office. Oracle says it’s vision is to deliver an integrated system from applications to disk, ostensibly a commitment to an OpenOffice.


Since the Oracle acquisition of Sun, there’s been no official word yet on the road map for Star Office. Oracle says it’s vision is to deliver an integrated system from applications to disk, ostensibly a commitment to an productivity suite. Yet, that’s not a foregone conclusion. Star Office was just part of the package Oracle got in its acquisition of Sun. Its relative value is to give Oracle a starting point to compete with Microsoft Office, but more likely Star Office’s journey with Oracle will take one of two paths:

  1. An independent productivity tools foundation. Upon the acquisition announcement, Open leaders begged for the emancipation of Star Office, saying a spin-off would be more in spirit with the open source community. The view is that Oracle makes billions of dollars licensing proprietary software and its control of Star Office is out of sync with’s mission. Oracle’s retention of Sun’s assets puts at risk the use of the name and the ability to reissue the code under a different license. There is a real possibility that Oracle will jettison Star Office and let invest in its further development, a la Mozilla’s efforts with Firefox.
  2. Integration with Oracle CRM and enterprise apps. Oracle has the opportunity to address some of the glaring deficiencies of Star Office –- like macro support and mail merge –- that keep it from competing with Microsoft Office. It also could integrate its Star Office with its CRM and database applications. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison would love to take on Microsoft, and his company has tried to develop alternatives to Office in the past (Oracle Office division from the early 1990s). But the likelihood that Oracle can turn Star Office 9 into the Microsoft Office killer that Sun couldn’t is hard to fathom. More likely, its useful capabilities would be culled and integrated with Oracle apps rather than a stand-alone alternative to Microsoft Office.

 A third outcome might be that Oracle abandons Star Office, or lets it die a slow death. The OpenOffice productivity suites market feels crowded now that IBM’s Lotus Symphony released version 1.2 to join Star Office 9 and OO3. To date, none of the alternatives to Microsoft Office –- OpenOffice or SaaS –- have made any significant inroads against Microsoft’s desktop dominance, currently supported by more than 80% of enterprises (see figure). Combined, the alternatives make up about 8% of the market and Star Office is only about 3%. It will be an uphill battle to displace Microsoft Office with such a fragmented group of Open Office alternatives, and it may prove a battle not worth fighting for Oracle given Sun’s host of other assets.

Topics: Oracle, Collaboration, Hardware, Microsoft, Software

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Makes you wonder

    StarOffice/OpenOffice is so far behind MS Office that it isn't even funny. They are lagging in performance, usability, innovation, features, programmability. It looks like Office 97. featurewise and quite literally.

    It is the cheapo free/cheap alternative you only accept because it is, well, free. Or for some ideologically infused, because it is anything but Microsoft.

    But it will take a miracle to bring the bloated codebase up to a standard where it can actually compete with MS Office.

    If StarOffice is spun off into a mozilla like foundation, lets hope that they are born with a healthy and sizeable capital. Enough to not only sustain the current level of development but also to help about the extra effort it will take to actually start closing the gap.

    Otherwise the whole openoffice chain may start to crumble. That would be <i>really</i> bad for the open source movement. If the posterchild of open source lets down the users how good does that look?

    Sun always saw Star/OpenOffice as a way to undermine (or at least keep in check) Microsofts Office cash cow. As such it has been at least partly successful. I have no doubt that the competition has been healthy and has helped keep Office license costs down.

    And without OpenOffice, Sun and IBM we wouldn't have had the standards war and Microsoft would not have opened up their formats.

    But the big question is if the model is sustainable?
  • RE: Microsoft Office still owns the desktop, future of StarOffice unclear

    I remember when I went to linuxworld a few years ago and there was a Star Office rep demoing star office to me. Saying how great it was to import Microsoft Office documents into it. Then I asked him about exporting it and he hesitated and nearly choked and then admitted that Star Office couldn't do it. At that point I just walked way laughing at him. Star Office has no future, my prediction is that development will stop pretty soon. Microsoft Office is what the people have chosen for its wide array of functionality. You can export documents into almost any format you want, thus making it compatible with every home, business, or student. Its the ideal office suite.
    Loverock Davidson
    • I just hope that <i>something</i> will remain to keep Microsoft in check

      I share your negative assesment of Star Office. Personally I much prefer the MS Office 2007 suite.

      But if Microsoft doesn't get some real competition license prices will remain high.

      But just imagine the embarrasing backlash if some of the very public "switchers" - like Munich - would have to once again switch to something else - with training costs, productivity loss etc. Could be a severe blow to the RMS style open source ideology.

      I think a product such as open office will be the real test. It is quite expensive to keep afloat. So far Sun has footed the bill in a vain hope of weakening the MS warchest. But can it survive on its own? Will enough donors commit sufficient funds for a sustainable foundation? If not, who will pick up the source and run with it? Who can?
      • Ever heard of "Government Motors"; why not "GOO"?

        People in the U.S. and in many other parts of the world have gotten used to getting "free" or "near free" products and services. (Although the reality is that, nothing is ever free).

        The government is now stepping in to control what used to be General Motors (yeah, I know, it's still called by the same name). And now, the government is also trying to hijack our private sector's health care system and it's very close to creating a "nationalized health care system".

        Well, what is there to stop the government, either the U.S. or in Europe or elsewhere, from nationalizing "Open Office" or even MS Office and renaming it something along the line of "GOO"? With government nowadays so intrusive and so "in your face", there's nothing safe from their socialist grip.

        (But, come to think of it, perhaps GOOgle should jump at the opportunity to have it's very won desktop office suite and will continue the development and support of Open Office and rename it with the first 3 letters of the company name, iow, "GOO". Just a suggestion...)

    • 0.1

      Really, you need better material.

      How's about the one where the New Zealand government has shunned entering into a new contract with Microsoft. How's about a lame ass tale about that then?
      • How about

        you accept the fact that Star Office was always a DOA concept. I should have told the rep that at linuxworld but I feel I made the right choice by just laughing at him.
        Loverock Davidson
        • Which is of course why...

          It will succeed brilliantly. Your "expert opinion" is always wrong.

          Mind you, 100+ million downloads of OpenOffice can't hurt in proving you wrong.
          • And what happens to those downloads?

            I'll tell you what happens. People download it, try it, see how bad it sucks, uninstall it, then continue to use Microsoft Office. Its so easy to prove you wrong.
            Loverock Davidson
          • Well...

            Seeing as the people around me are still using OpenOffice, I'd say that the people that download it keep on using it.

            That and this might help to shake your out of your loony tree...


          • well

            Ive downloaded it, installed it, used it, rejected it and adopted MS office 2007, a shop purchased version, you are allowed to run it on up to 3 machines, (more than enough for me).

            And companed to any of the FOSS alternatives Office 2007 walk all over them.

            I un-installed OO.o pointless having it, its crap... it really is a very amateurish attempt at copying an old version of MS office.
          • Exactly right!

            I downloaded, installed, tried it, and uninstalled after I decided that it wasn't good enough.

            I keep trying OO with every new version (four downloads of over 100 megs), and each time, I come away very unimpressed.

            Downloads does not equal usage. Otherwise, I would count as 4 users of OO, but in reality, I'm not even one user.
  • The future of OpenOffice is quite uncertain for me, even mySQL.

    Although I wouldn't feel comfortable with Oracle acquiring Sun due to the fact that Oracle is a company who makes millions on propriety-based software, I'm afraid it's too late, despite the rough acquisition.

    I'd feel better if Oracle lets go of OpenOffice and mySQL.
    Grayson Peddie
  • Open Office is growing

    Just like Internet Explorer given enough time the erosion has started and I do remember how people laughed at Mozilla.

    They are not laughing now, I also remember how Windows NT 4.0 Server was the big deal back 10 years ago. Today it is Open Source Linux distro's powering the Internet with Bind, Apache, Tomcat, Sendmail/Postfix, Dhcp, clustering, you name it.

    MS will try to hold the desktop, however it will come to an end everything does.

    Nothing last forever and things can change in a few years or months very quickly in technology.

    MS is not growing like they once were and with inflation on the way, more companies will not renew silly licenses for writing a '.doc' is absurd.
    • Mozilla started as the 800lb gorilla..

      ..people tend to forget this when they think of a product like Firefox gaining marketshare from IE. They started as "the" standard web browser, and a lot of that legacy code still exists which has helped the programmers design a solid web browser. There was far less catch-up that needed to be played in the browser market.

      Open/Star Office, on the other hand, never had a solid base to work with - it always has played 2nd fiddle to MS. Also, there are THOUSANDS more features, nuances, and business requirements around office productivity software (especially spreadsheets) than web browsers, making the catch-up game that much harder for the Open Source office people.

      For this reason alone, you can't bet the future success of this program based on the success of Firefox.
      • Same story happened to MS too

        MS Office isn't the first one ruling the market. The one before is Lotus 1-2-3 from IBM. Then MS came, then competition...
        Mac has the same story: it lost and it won, and it will lose or win?
        But one thing is sure: we should not care the one who rules the market; we only care about the competition itself that promotes the technology.
    • I agree, Open OIffice is growing:

      growing increasingly useless.

      That is why they are at 3 percent.

      I IMAGINE they took over Word Perfect's share, nothing more.
      • LOL

    • Yeah, growing moss maybe... (nt)

    • Obviously...

      You must be fricking high...
  • MS Office 14 is set to leave the competition behind

    Sorry, I've been testing MS Office 14 and there is NOTHING from the competition that even comes close. Oracle's best move, close StarOffice down and let it die a peaceful death.