So I thought you’d like to read about something other than Halo 3 or yet another Apple iPhone story this week, I for one have pretty much had my fill, and there is no shortage of stories about these out there to titillate your pallet should you need. Instead let’s talk about a really sizzling product: Microsoft Office. /end sarcasm


About a year into the life of Office 2007 and I have to tell ya, I’m still scratching my head and asking, “Why did we need this Office Upgrade?” And from experiences working with many different customers they are asking the same question; opting not to adopt it as well! While some in the industry are arguing that this is due to Microsoft’s downward slide into technological irrelevance, and that is certainly a factor, Office 2007’s lack of penetration has more to do with it’s own failings as a product and other worth competitors stealing market share.


Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – or the DOCX format


In addition to a total menu redesign, that repeals existing Office users, the new DOCX format by default is causing many companies anxiety as they grapple with significant incompatibility’s between their existing Office versions. This is a major problem. Companies are faced with a tough choice – complete, wholesale upgrade to 2007, mixed 2000/XP/2003/2007 and deal with multiple format types, or just stay back on your tried and true version of Office.


There’s the core rub, Office 2003 and before are pretty dang good. Much like the XP vs. Vista conundrum, Microsoft is again competing against itself, and many users actually prefer the previous generation product.


Think Different – Think Free


Open Office is more then just fine, its a serious challenge. Free, powerful and portable Open Office, is not just a Microsoft disgruntles’ Linux only copy cat of MS Office. Besides the price being right (did I mention its FREE again), OO is winning hearts and minds for more than just fiduciary reasons.


While Office 2007 is running many away, due to it’s new file formats, some are running the the Open Doc (ODF) non-proprietary formats OO supports. In the spirit of full disclosure, this post was edited in Open Office 2.3. Personally I’ve found OO’s interoperability back and forth to DOC format (Office 2003 at least) to be superb.


Another extremely compelling aspect of Open Office is it’s cross platform uniformity and availability. Regardless of your environment, Windows, OSX or Linux, Open Office is basically the same application. This commonality across platforms is something I appreciate more and more move from machine to machine. Compare this to the Office family, and regard less of the price, there is no smooth transition between Windows and Mac, and no option on Linux.


It’s worth pointing out that Open Office is just part of a larger sea change that is rolling ashore on the computing coastline. Wonderful applications like GIMP, VLC and others are not only no cost, there best of bread, and quickly becoming the applications of choice for many.


So Good Luck with that Microsoft


MS Office has long been a cash machine for the company, practically like a mint printing out millions annually for the software giant. In the past companies marched in lock and step to the Microsoft dictated upgrade cycle. Now all that is being questioned.


With Redmond fending off the epic level of user discontentment surrounding Vista, the last thing they want to deal with is stagnant sales of Office, yet that is the situation at hand.


In the meantime I’ll keep using Outlook 2003 and Open Office as my migration path out of the Microsoft controlled upgrade ferris wheel.