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IT Orgs Weighing Alternatives to Microsoft Office

IT organizations are considering alternatives to Microsoft Office, but it's no real competition, a new Forrester Research report indicates.

Two factors appear to be stumbling blocks to widespread adoption of the alternatives, according to a Forrester survey of 150 IT decision makers, all of whom used Microsoft Office in their organizations. First, organizations want to ensure file format compatibility with Microsoft Office. Second, they want assurances that users will accept an alternative.

The report, "Market Update: Office Productivity Alternatives," released this month, finds that few organizations have actually adopted alternatives to Microsoft Office. Still, they are checking them out. Organizations are mostly interested in using alternative productivity suites for specialized segments in the workplace or as complementary apps to Microsoft Office.

"Adoption of alternatives relative to Microsoft Office is paltry, but interest remains high, with more than a quarter of companies actively looking at or experimenting with web-based alternatives," the report states.

The Web-based alternatives include software-as-a-service productivity suite applications from Google, ThinkFree and Zoho, which don't provide a desktop-based solution. IBM's Symphony is currently desktop based, but the company plans to add LotusLive Symphony Web apps sometime this year, according to the report. Microsoft Office for the desktop already supports limited but complementary Office Web Apps, although businesses need to have SharePoint 2010 licensing in place or use Microsoft's free SharePoint Foundation 2010 (which has dependencies on Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2, according to Microsoft's requirements.)

Desktop-based alternatives include IBM's Symphony and Corel's WordPerfect. Corel has no plans to develop a cloud-based WordPerfect, according to the report. A current drawback to Symphony is that it does not support Microsoft's Office Open XML format. IBM cried foul when Microsoft pushed its OOXML document format through the ISO/IEC standardization process. IBM is insisting on strict compliance of the standard before integrating OOXML in Symphony, according to the report.

Other desktop-based alternative suites include Oracle's OpenOffice.org, which Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems, and the open source alternative LibreOffice. Oracle's acquisition led to a schism, in which LibreOffice developers split from OpenOffice.org developers. However, Oracle announced in April that it no longer plans to develop a commercial version of OpenOffice.org, saying that it would move its development efforts into an open source community effort. It's not clear if that means a continuing schism to come or unification with The Document Foundation or something else.

The report provides considerations for organizations when weighing alternatives to Microsoft Office. It lists the capabilities of the various productivity suites, along with licensing costs.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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