Massachusetts Ditches Office?

My home state of Massachusetts wants to get rid of Microsoft Office and move all employees over to StarOffice or OpenOffice. While this may be bad news for Microsoft shareholders, it’s great news for Microsoft customers. It’s been a long time since Office had any real competition (Lotus SmartSuite sells for about 10 cents at my local flea market), and that complacency allows Microsoft to get sloppy. They don’t have to fix glaring usability problems, lower prices or invent stunning new features. And Microsoft has no incentive to support anyone else’s file formats. Like it or not, it’s a Microsoft Office world.

But if major customers like the entire state of Massachusetts switch, then Microsoft has to act like there’s competition -- that means responding to customer complaints about usability, changing prices based on market conditions, and most of all, making Office worth every penny (and those are lots of pennies) with outrageously cool new features.

My guess is the Bay State will go with StarOffice. As part of its multi-billion dollar détente, Sun’s Scott McNealy got Microsoft to agree not to sue StarOffice for patent infringement. That makes it a pretty safe bet.

What do you want to see done with Office? E-mail me at dbarney@redmondmag.com

Maximizing the Mid-Market
Does your shop have 500 or fewer desktops? If so, you’ve probably long had the feeling that none of the major vendors truly care about you. Sure, you order gear from their Web sites, but just try to get a strategic sit-down with execs, special deals or customization. But there’s money in them thar mid-market hills and Microsoft wants its fair share -- which is all of it!

Tomorrow, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates will lay out some reasons why smaller shops should buy Microsoft software -- reasons that go far beyond Windows Server 2003 Small Business Server. I’ll give you an update on Thursday.

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Kill Google, Part 2
One of the qualities that make Microsoft so fascinating is its competitive spirit. Combine Dale Earnhardt Sr., Tanya Harding and Vince McMahon and you’ll begin to approach the fighting spirit of Steve Ballmer.

That emotion apparently poured out when a worker resigned in person to go to Google. According to court documents, Ballmer launched an obscenity-laced tirade, promising to #%&^$ kill Google. Ballmer claims that conversation was blown out of #%&^$ proportion.

Gulf Goes Net-Less
The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina should make us all stop and think, appreciate what we have and help those who have nothing. So much of what we deem important is now exposed as trivial. In my case, I’m addicted to my wireless laptop and can’t go for more than a few seconds without checking e-mail or looking for a motorcycle on Craigslist. I realized how unimportant this all is after reading a report that Web traffic in the Gulf region is so scant as to be un-reportable.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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