Google has fired another salvo across Microsoft's bow with the revelation that it has begun working with the OpenOffice group to help improve the software suite.
According to Chris DiBona, manager for open-source programs at Google, the current version of OpenOffice suffers from a few fairly large problems, such as a large memory requirement and a large download size.
Google plans to hire additional programmers to help the OpenOffice team with these and other issues.
Friend of Google
According to Kyle McNabb, senior analyst at Forrester Research, the benefit of Google assisting the OpenOffice development team is clear. McNabb indicated that it is no secret that there are problems with the OpenOffice suite.
"What Google is doing here is adding some meat to address the issue of making the software more of a stable and concise program and not the hog that many claim it to be," McNabb said.
However, McNabb doubts that, even with Google's help, the open-source suite will be able to offer a serious challenge to Microsoft Office in the North American and Western European markets.
He said that Microsoft's software is too well entrenched in those markets already, save for certain government agencies and a minority of tech-savvy users or Microsoft-haters who prefer open-source systems.
Implications for Redmond
McNabb also said that, in general, the risk to Microsoft is limited because the software giant is getting fairly aggressive with new information-sharing features in the next major version of Office.
But he said that a threat to Microsoft does exist within emerging markets in Eastern Europe and Asia, where, for instance, the Indonesian government recently announced that it was going with Linux on all desktops.
"China and India are two of those emerging areas where you don't have a user population that has grown up with Microsoft," McNabb pointed out. "There are billions of potential users there and the area is a greenfield opportunity."
What Microsoft has going for it, according to McNabb, is that, in the end, the OpenOffice initiative is simply an imitation of Microsoft Office.
McNabb said the free software suite lacks any of the innovative functions Microsoft is busily creating for Office 12. Users, McNabb said, not only are concerned about cost but also are interested in the level of productivity the software can provide.
"We have a lot of organizations, even in emerging markets, that are looking for innovation, looking for the desktop environment to become a real productivity starting point," McNabb said. "The open-source community is still just imitating what Microsoft currently has on the market."
That imitation, argued McNabb, will put Microsoft in a place where it can say that it has the most innovative product from which enterprises can gain the greatest amount of productivity.