Microsoft eyes OpenOffice.org as a direct competitor

Well it seems Microsoft is at it again with trying to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt against open source software. But wait, I thought they "loved" open source?
Written by Chris Clay Clay, Contributor

Well it seems Microsoft is at it again with trying to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt against open source software. But wait, I thought they "loved" open source? Oops, I guess they were either not sure about that statement or maybe they are doing the usual and saying what people want to hear. This time, the attack is against OpenOffice.org, the Microsoft Office competitor. I watched Microsoft's video on YouTube and had a good chuckle. Again, just marketing propaganda from Microsoft that is skewed in their favor. The video has quotes from supposed people that are in support of Microsoft Office over OpenOffice.

The video seems to focus on points like MS Office being familiar, without a learning curve. They also make some statement that is supposed to be a teacher claiming that her student turned in work that wasn't correctly formatted. And then they make claims that open source software required 30% more resources to fix problems and supposedly broke. I know this is just marketing fluff, but honestly I don't see what issues that OpenOffice would have. I've installed OpenOffice so many times on Linux PCs that I've lost count, yet I've never had any issues. OpenOffice just works, and it works very well.

The video also claims that there was no support for open source software. You have to be kidding, open source is known to have some of the best support out there, because everybody, let me repeat, everybody has access to the code. This opens up the support worldwide among all users of the software. How many times have you called Microsoft for a support problem? I'm guessing not too much, because they charge outrageous fees. And yes you can find support in forums, however it's limited because only Microsoft has access to the code; essentially you are counting on somebody else having the same problem, and happening to stumble upon a fix, then share it with the rest. Open source allows users to find the root problems by looking at the code, and getting a permanent fix, and sharing it with all other users.

I do agree that OpenOffice does have formatting and compatibility issues when transferring documents from MS Office. My experiences have shown these are caused by font and font sizing problems normally. This can be a problem. But, let's look at it in the reverse scenario. OpenOffice does make an attempt to support all MS Office file formats, so why can't MS Office return the favor and support native OpenOffice formats? That way, you would eliminate a lot of cross-compatibility issues. Well, it turns out with Office 2007 they do make this attempt, Word and Excel suporrt OpenOffice documents, but Microsoft fails to mention this anywhere that I've seen. I have not tested it but the functionality is there. The fact remains that MS Office is proprietary and closed source, kept under tight control of Microsoft. Personally, when I send documents to other people, I export as a PDF and send it that way. This eliminates any compatibility issues altogether. There are better ways to communicate electronically, than what Microsoft says.

So in reality, do you want to use MS Office which is tightly controlled by one entity, and in control of you, or do you want to use OpenOffice which is open to the world and gives you freedom to use, study, fix, and improve the software? The choice is up to you. Luckily, OpenOffice is free to download and install, so you really can't go wrong by at least trying it out. The only positive thing I can say about this video is that it means that Microsoft is acknowledging that OpenOffice is a direct competitor, which is a positive thing for us all.

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