Microsoft trashing OpenOffice is a good thing

When people pay attention all the money in the world won't change their minds. And when it's a choice between spending money on something or downloading it, I like my chances, no matter how many attack ads Microsoft puts out.

First they ignore you. Then they attack you. Then you win.

I was reminded of that old adage when watching the silly Microsoft ad attacking OpenOffice.org this weekend.

The claims made by the ad are not new. There are undertones of political attack in it, only natural given that this is a political season. And since OpenOffice.org doesn't have the resources to respond, some may consider it unfair.

Please stop the whinging.

Microsoft can advertise the advantages of its product all it wants, but when even a student version costs $84, with the full deal going for almost $700, and OpenOffice.org can be downloaded free, the difference is obvious. (Whether you can get it a little cheaper is not the issue -- the fact is Microsoft software costs money.)

Speaking of politics it reminds me a bit of Proposition 16, an attempt by a California utility to maintain absolute control over the market earlier this year. The proponent was a gigantic company with an unlimited budget, the opponents a small collection of consumer advocates with no money.

The consumer advocates won.

People aren't stupid. I know we're all trained to think that if one side has money and the other has none, that the side with money is going to win. Not true. When people pay attention all the money in the world won't change their minds.

And when it's a choice between spending money on something or downloading it, I like my chances, no matter how many attack ads Microsoft puts out.

Some may find the timing troubling, coming as it does some months after Oracle acquired OpenOffice.org and shortly after developers forked to a new project, LibreOffice.  I don't think it matters much. Fact is free software is a serious competitor in the market, Microsoft is acknowledging it, and that's what we need to remember.

This ad proves that OpenOffice.org is eating into Microsoft's market share. It is providing something Microsoft hasn't faced in this space in over a decade, real competition. Microsoft has to work for its money in office productivity for the first time in a long, long time.

That's even good news for Microsoft users.