Free office suite OpenOffice.org is becoming increasingly popular with home users and small and medium businesses. According to the company, OpenOffice’s market share in Germany, for example, is an incredible 20%. OnSoftware spoke to international marketing head Florian Effenberger about OpenOffice, open source software and Microsoft.
OnSoftware: What is OpenOffice’s market share?
Effenberger: About four weeks ago we got new numbers on that, more or less for the first time. According to a Webmasterpro study that asked what users have installed on their system, OpenOffice has a 20% market share in Germany, more or less. I assume that the number of unreported users is actually significantly higher, taking Ubuntu and other users into account.
Microsoft has reduced the price of its own Office package. Do you think this is related to the success of OpenOffice?
Well, we’re not entirely free of blame. We look at it as a challenge. There’s more to it: although Microsoft may reduce their prices, there’s still the whole issue of the open standard philosophy. You can’t emphasize that part enough.
A preview of Microsoft Office 2010 has been available for a few weeks now. The new version has considerably more options and is firmly aimed at business users. How is OpenOffice going to react? Are you planning any additional features?
Our users are really important to us. We will publish version 3.3 in about 6 months, right on schedule. This is our normal cycle: every 3 months we release a bugfix and every 6 months there’s a minor release with new features. No completely new modules are planned; we will improve existing elements instead. We’ll see the first effects of user interface project Renaissance shortly, but it’s certainly not going to be as radical as is being suggested by some media sources. Whether or not the program interface is going to see a major change, we just don’t know yet.
And what about the Microsoft project SharePoint?
SharePoint allows multiple people to work on a document simultaneously. When you’re talking about a spreadsheet, for example, I can see how it would be useful. But in a text document? I don’t know if that makes sense. With SharePoint, apart from anything, you need the Office package, a SharePoint Server, a Windows Server and maybe even an Exchange Server – and then all the licenses! Each part is another thing that the user has to pay for. In the end, you have to ask – how much of this functionality is the normal user actually taking advantage of?
Is there any “lite” version of OpenOffice planned?
No, we don’t have any plans for one. I wonder if it would make any sense. Our main objective is to improve the existing version, to make it more efficient. Ultimately though, OpenOffice is open source, so anyone could do it. I’d be worried about the usability of a version like that though. A special junior version has already been created by one user, however, OOO4Kids. This package is configured to install only the essential functions.
When you buy a new computer today there is normally a lot of software pre-installed. Usually it’s Microsoft Office rather than OpenOffice. Are you working on increasing use in this context?
Yes, we’re on it! With some producers in countries such as Greece, for example, OpenOffice is already installed on the computer. Others install OpenOffice and a trial version of Microsoft Office on your computer – there’s no conflict with the two, it’s fine.
We get the impression that more and more users prefer free software to illegally pirated programs. What’s your opinion?
Apart from in countries such as China, for example, where the black market is quite strong, that is true in most cases. More and more average users, and also small and medium businesses, are resorting to free software. And there’s another issue: even if I legally buy software, all the activation/validation stuff annoys the user. I understand that Microsoft Office 2010 will just have a key server – no volume licenses. Imagine the cost of managing that?! OpenOffice eliminates license costs, management and problems – like what happened recently with Microsoft declaring legal licenses to be invalid. That will never happen with OpenOffice.