Microsoft: Office '10 years ahead' of OpenOffice

Open source advocates defend OpenOffice as a Microsoft executive argues it is 10 years out of date
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor

A Microsoft executive has criticised the open source productivity application OpenOffice.org (OOo), claiming that it is far behind Microsoft Office in terms of functionality.

Alan Yates, the general manager of business strategy for the Information Worker Group at Microsoft, said in an interview with Australian news site iTWire that OOo is only useful for basic tasks. A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to ZDNet UK on Monday that Yates had made these comments.

"It really depends upon what job you're trying to do. Certainly, if you're just trying to write a few notes or something, OpenOffice is just fine. The truth is though that OpenOffice.org is really designed to solve the problems that Microsoft focused on 10 years ago when the model was an individual user working at their individual PC," said Yates in the interview.

"The world and Microsoft software has grown way beyond that to make it very easy to do what used to be very hard things. Most documents today are not done by one individual. They're done by multiple people working on a project at once. Essentially, OpenOffice is fine if you have very limited needs because it was really designed around what Microsoft Office products were designed around 10 years ago," he added.

OOo developer Michael Meeks said on Tuesday that Microsoft Office is ahead in functionality, but claimed that the open source application has enough features for the average user.

"There is *some* truth in what this chappy says; yes there are feature gaps between OOo and Microsoft Office. Of course — he paints a rather extreme view — we can do way better than 'a few notes'. Indeed, I'd argue that for the average business Office user, OOo 2.0.2 is a suitable replacement right now," said Meeks.

He added that OOo has one pre-eminent feature that Microsoft Office will never have — freedom. "This is free software. In the (fairly) unlikely event that it doesn't do what you want, you are in control. You can fix it or get someone to fix it," said Meeks. "A nice side effect of that is that you completely control your data too."

Louis Suarez-Potts, the community manager at OOo, agreed that freedom is the most important feature of the open source application, pointing out that it uses an open file format, so OOo files can be read by other applications now, and in the future.

"OpenOffice.org is designed to be a tool for the creation and communication of ideas, whether that communication is collaborative or not. We are designed to work in heterogeneous environments securely and easily. Our file format, the OASIS OpenDocument Format, is an open standard, meaning that it can be widely implemented," said Suarez-Potts.

He said that Microsoft's criticism of OOo was a "rather pathetic" attempt to stop its customer base from migrating to the open source application. "Microsoft's only reaction is to imitate us when it can and generate FUD at all times. It is not interested in furthering the ways in which people and businesses and governments communicate, it is only interested in its own bottom line, in keeping its customer base tied to its applications and file formats," said Suarez-Potts.

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