Thursday, August 16, 2007

Enemy of my enemy 2

In the vein of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Google and Sun have declared war on Microsoft Office.

Unless you’re an open source hacker, you probably don’t know that Sun has actually been fighting MS-Office for the past 8 years through sales of its StarOffice suite. Most of the StarOffice package is available free as an open source project via OpenOffice. Meanwhile, Google has been providing clunky web-based applications with its Google Docs & Spreadsheets website.

Now StarOffice is being distributed by Google, in hopes of getting firms to pay for a bundle of Google Apps, marking the culmination of a two-year collaboration.

Other than that Sun no longer hopes to get $70 for the paid StarOffice that competes with its free OpenOffice, I don’t know what to make of the bundle. StarOffice provides absolutely essential technology for competing with Microsoft’s stranglehold of offices and the desktop, but no one but the most fanatical OSS (or more likely, free software) adherent would say that OpenOffice/StarOffice is easier to use or has more features that Microsoft Office, although it does run better on Linux and has more open file formats. And my initial reaction to Google docs was “why”?

So other than a common dislike of Microsoft (with ex-Sun COO Eric Schmidt calling the shots) what is the point of the announcement?

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