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OpenOffice nears download milestone

The open source competitor to Microsoft Office is approaching 50 million downloads

The open source productivity application OpenOffice.org has been downloaded almost 50 million times since the project was started, according to the company that founded the project, Sun.

Erwin Tenhumberg, a product marketing manager in Sun's client system group, told the OASIS Adoption Forum in London on Tuesday that OpenOffice.org has been downloaded "close to" 48 million times in the five years since the project was founded. Although this number may include duplicate downloads, the average user of OpenOffice downloads it six times but installs it on nine machines, according to a survey of 5000 people downloading the application that was cited by Tenhumberg.

He also pointed out that this number does not include OpenOffice.org mirror sites or open source CDs and Linux distributions that package the office productivity application.

Disks containing open source software that include OpenOffice have been distributed by a number of governments worldwide, including the Indian government, which is distributing 7 million CDs containing Tamil and Hindi versions of open source applications to the public, and the local government in the French region of Auvergne, which has distributed 64,000 packs of CDs to students.

As open source applications can be downloaded and redistributed free of charge it can be difficult to measure how many individuals and companies are using the application. Analyst firms traditionally rely on software company revenues to measure the market share of proprietary products, but no-one has found a reliable way of measuring the market share of open source products. Although download numbers can give some indication of the popularity of a product, people may not actually use the product, or may use it at the same time as another product.

The download statistics for OpenOffice.org are dwarfed by those of the open source browser Firefox, which was downloaded 10 million times within just over a month after its release in November 2004, and is now nearing 100 million downloads, according to Firefox' community marketing site, SpreadFirefox.com.

Version 2.0 of OpenOffice.org is expected to be launched this week.