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They're Swinging for Office, But It's Hard To Knock Out the Champ

Google apparently can't get enough of trying to compete with Microsoft on the productivity-suite front. Not long after launching Google Apps, a pretender to Microsoft Office's throne, the Silicon Valley powerhouse has slid Sun's StarOffice into its Google Pack mega-download. And Google's not alone -- Adobe is making noise about office suites, too.

Of course, other competitors, such as OpenOffice, have been around for a while, trying hopelessly to unseat Microsoft's entry in the race to provide word processors and spreadsheet programs to corporate and consumer users. Everybody's got a message (we almost wrote "gimmick" in that sentence). Competitor suites are either cheaper than Office, or are browser-based thin-client options, or are free...or something. What they all have in common, though, is single-digit market share.

We're not saying it'll be that way forever. After all, Microsoft still hasn't done much to move Office out of the desktop realm and into the software-as-a-service "cloud," given that Office Live isn't really a "Live" version of Office but instead is a suite of apps for small business. And, if anything, Microsoft hurt Office more than anybody else by making Office 2007 look completely unfamiliar to users.

But the reason Redmond's competitors aren't making more headway against the Office juggernaut is because Office is the absolute baseline of technology for the average information worker. Listen to what people at your office or your clients' offices say: A document isn't just a document; it's a "Word document." A spreadsheet is inevitably an "Excel spreadsheet." And a presentation? Forget about it -- it's just a "PowerPoint" now, plain and simple.

Yeah, there are lots of issues with functionality and especially with interoperability as far as competitors to Office are concerned, and they're real problems for non-Microsoft offerings. But, more than anything else, until Google and Adobe can find away to shift Word, Excel and PowerPoint out of the "Kleenex" or "Xerox" (or even "Google," oddly enough) brand-recognition mode, Microsoft will remain heavyweight champ in the productivity-suite ring.

Have a take on the power of the Office brand or a review of Office 2007? I'll happily read your thoughts at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 08/15/2007 at 1:21 PM


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