What's the best defense for open source?

What if Open Office really were a solid enterprise alternative to Microsoft Office? The best defense may indeed be a good offense.

OSBC logo
The OSBC is in San Francisco this week, worrying over defending against Microsoft patent claims.

Our own Ed Burnette was intrigued by hints in Jonathan Schwartz' blog this week that Sun Microsystems might help defend Ubuntu and Red Hat, if push came to shove.

Interesting given that Sun isn't even a member of the Open Invention Network, the corporate patent disarmament group headlined by IBM, Philips and Sony.

Personally, I was more intrigued by another aspect of his blog post. Schwartz repeated the point, with pictures, but it's something which deserves special emphasis.

Open Office logo
Get Open Office, he said. Instead of waiting for Microsoft's lawyers to lay the hammer down, cut off Microsoft's air supply by downloading, and using, the open source alternative to Microsoft Office, which is as big a driver of Microsoft's revenues and profits these days as Windows.

I have Open Office, and have used it for months now. It's powerful. But it's far from perfect. I have major problems cutting-and-pasting ODT files into blog posts, for instance. The documentation is still poor, and not integrated into the product. Don't even get me started on its drawing, presentation or database tools.

Still, Schwartz has an excellent point here. (Given that Open Office descends from Sun code, it's a self-serving point, I know.) Rather than paying lawyers and waiting for a legal attack, what if large vendors, like Sun and the members of OIN, put some real money into improving Open Office, as was done with Firefox?

What if Open Office really were a solid enterprise alternative to Microsoft Office?

The best defense may indeed be a good offense.