and Microsoft Office: A serious threat for the empire?

The blog world is abuzz on a Microsoft job posting. The US subsidiary looking for a “Linux and Open Office Compete Lead” – and a team of 13 people – seems to signal a meaty victory for the OS crowd, as it implies Microsoft is taking OpenOffice seriously. Or does it?

As I pointed out in the comments of one of the longer posts on the subject, a dozen people really isn’t that much when you consider the fact that the Office business grinds money at $15 billion a year. But I do agree that it’s a change: It’s a public admission that customers actually have valid alternatives and that the situation warrants discussion, also from Microsoft’s end.

Fair enough. Were OOo and Linux powered by companies, Microsoft would probably buy them out of the market. The beauty of Open Source is that it cannot be bought away or controlled. It cannot be stopped by simply turning a few shareholders rich. Instead, market superpowers must fight the OS threat by investing their capital more constructively: making their own solutions better and learning to justify their cost structure. All this advances the state of things by far more than behind-the-scenes stock trading.

But does this imply a serious threat to Microsoft Office? I don’t think so. OOo will steal market share, that’s for sure. But my personal opinion is that it’s not competitive with Microsoft’s offering yet, and its true long-term TCO still remains to be measured. Still, without a grain of doubt, it’s extremely important to have competition.

As for Linux on the server-side, it’s whole lot different. The openness of the Linux Server paradigm has already catalyzed a change in Windows Server and driven Windows Azure towards a more platform-agnostic model of thought. With the amount of serious large-scale backers Linux has, it is no longer bound to the typical limitations of an OS project. I expect the starting decade to be great.

So what does this Compete Lead hiring mean? I’d say it means that Microsoft is slowly getting rid of its arrogance. Focusing a bunch of people to actually think about the competitive losses and improve on what they do is exactly what a responsible business should do. Is it a win for the OS movement? In a recognition sense, maybe. Businesswise, I think those 13 people aren’t going to make the Linux and march any easier.

As for the future, I’m hoping that we’ll see similar hires for the Google’s Cloud offering in both infrastructure and app suite segments. Meanwhile, happy new year!

January 5, 2010 · Jouni Heikniemi · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: General

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