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Google Poses Biggest Threat To MS Office, Readers Say

Readers have a lot to say about free/alternative office suites (as in, alternatives to Microsoft's dominant Office product). Presented with a growing list of alternatives, they conclude that Google Docs is a viable threat to Microsoft.
Readers have a lot to say about free/alternative office suites (as in, alternatives to Microsoft's dominant Office product). Presented with a growing list of alternatives, they conclude that Google Docs is a viable threat to Microsoft.When it comes to online polls (of the unscientific nature, as ours is) or simplified queries asking readers to choose between almost any company and Microsoft, they'll almost always select the alternative. But in this case, I phrased the question more broadly, in the hopes of getting readers to think more about the alternatives and their enterprise readiness. The question also acknowledges an obvious point: perhaps Microsoft Office won't go anywhere anytime soon.

Responding to the question: "Which of the following office suites will provide the strongest alternative to Microsoft Office for corporations?" 308 readers answered as follows:

  • Google - 35%

  • None - Microsoft Office will never be unseated - 31%

  • OpenOffice - 23%

  • IBM Lotus Symphony - 10%

  • Zoho - 1%

Sifting through dozens of comments, there were plenty of IT pros who said Microsoft Office's functionality, installed base and level of user understanding make it almost impossible to replace. Even supporters, however, complain about its price and some referenced the "bloat" factor.

Yet many support Google Docs and Open Office, in that order. IBM's Lotus Symphony was introduced just last week, so the small percentage voting in its favor isn't a total surprise. I was especially intrigued by posters who observed that because Google Docs documents are stored online, IT pros should be concerned about the security of those files and the corporate data they contain. Do you view security a real stumbling block with Google Docs or any web-based apps? (Submit comments below)

I'll also be publishing some feedback from Microsoft over the next couple days on our poll. They noticed the poll and offered to give me their feedback on the results, which I'll be happy to report on.

Meantime, here are a couple of the better posts - edited for length or clarity -- on the issue of whether any suite can challenge Microsoft:

From "Jason:"

commented on Sep 20, 2007 11:45:17 PM
We are using 'web based' technologies to design content and presentations about their intellectual property. How safe do you think your information is sitting out on a webserver outside of your control? The person that said even though their company provides MS Office to them, but they use Google docs, should be fired. You are a weak link in your companies security policy.

From "Bruce B:"

commented on Sep 21, 2007 10:59:08 AM
I don't really do that much in any Office suite, so I switched over to OpenOffice about a year ago. After a year of suffering in those times I did use it, I've decided to switch back to MS Office. Even though I'm not a heavy office-app user, the times I did use OO, it was more of a PITA than anything. I couldn't print labels correctly unless I went into the program and did some serious tweaking. Why should I have to do that? With MS Office, I've never had ANY problems. Sorry, all you freeware junkies, but just because a program is free doesn't necessarily mean it's worth the switch.

From "Matt H:"

commented on Sep 22, 2007 7:41:02 AM
My answer is, it depends on the task, no single product does it all, I use both proprietary and open-source code very heavily in my data-mining work (I'm a Genomics researcher in Big Pharma so I routinely analyze databases with millions of records).

At both home and work I use MS Office and Windows XP quite a lot, because nothing else is 100.000000 percent compatible with ALL files. Also, with the large data files I often analyze, I find the open-source alternatives to Excel choke on many such files that Excel can handle, and also Excel's graphics are superior for many of the analyses I perform.

I do use open-source products a lot, for various reasons.

For the heavy lifting database analysis work I use Perl code that I and my colleagues have written on high-end Linux servers (our main workhorse has about a hundred gigabytes of RAM, 64 Altix CPUs in a symmetric multiprocessing shared-memory configuration, and I forget how many terabytes of disk; no Windows platform with which I am familiar comes within an order of magnitude of this thing's specs). I also run Linux on smaller computers at home and at work because I do strongly prefer Linux as a development environment.

On the Linux boxes of course I use Open Office for word processing, and also spreadsheets, and overall it works pretty well MOST of the time, but sometimes there are formatting glitches, and its interface feels significantly less well polished, and as noted above it chokes on really big spreadsheets. For data files that go beyond anything even Excel can handle I also use the high-end statistics program Partek Genomics Suite, and for files with millions of records there is no alternative to writing my own code in Perl since NOTHING else handles such monster files as well as Perl does.

HOWEVER, there is another program I use a lot in my work that deserves MUCH more attention than it gets: the OTHER major open-source spreadsheet, GNUMERIC. For statistical calculations where accuracy matters, I use GNUMERIC because the accuracy of its statistical calculations is known to be its particular strength. I have Linux versions of GNUMERIC installed on the Linux systems I use at home and at work, and I have Windows versions of GNUMERIC installed on the Windows XP systems I use at home and at work.

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