Attack Of The Office-Killers

Microsoft's biggest profit-maker has enjoyed two decades of runaway success. Are new challenges, and a group of increasingly confident competitors, about to put on the brakes?
Zymaris said he believes that of the existing alternatives to Microsoft Office, he sees OpenOffice, not its Sun-owned identical twin StarOffice, as the true "killer app" that builds significant market share at Microsoft's expense. “StarOffice by itself will not be able to have the impact needed. It's just another competing product from a vendor -- Microsoft can dispatch competing vendors at will," he stated. "It's which has the momentum and is the real threat to Office.”

One thing, of course, is certain: Whatever happens, Microsoft Office will continue to be a leading product with significant market share. According to Prince, for example, some knowledge workers at Burlington Coat Factory insisted on using Microsoft Office -- even though most of the company's staff has already switched to StarOffice and Linux. The company's CEO said the last thing he wants to do is to force change down the throats of employees who don’t want to switch -- and although he plans to encourage the use of StarOffice in the future, he will also continue to provide Office licenses for those who prefer the product.

Zymaris says the ultimate goal is not to "take out" Microsoft, anyway. The goal is to bring them into the fold. “The hope is that one day, Microsoft will become a big, successful but fair-playing member of the IT community, rather than the law-breaking monopolist it is now," he said. "We've seen that transition with IBM, and it has been good for the industry. We may see that transition with Microsoft, and that too will be good for the industry."

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