Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Something is stirring in the office software market


As a PC user there was only one game in town for office software - Microsoft Office. Yes there was other software but very few people used it. Everyone used Word, Excel, etc. and if you used anything else people thought you were strange.

Since moving to the Mac I’ve discovered the hegemony doesn’t exist here. I’ve discovered people who use NeoOffice and as Mark points out in his comment today there is Apple software too.

Funny thing is I first met Mark when we both worked for a company which produced UNIX based office automation software, Quadratron. In fact the company had made a good job of missing the PC market and realised it needed to catch up. Somehow Mark, Adrian, myself and a couple of others weren’t going to make it happen. Once it became clear the company had no future we jumped ship.

But now it appears the office automation market might be on the move again.

Yesterday I used the Google spreadsheet and word processor for the first time. In fact I was using them in collaboration mode with Till Schuemmer as we started the process or organising EuroPLoP 2008. They worked well - despite my very slow ADSL connection - and I was impressed. However shortly after we finished the ADSL connection collapsed again so while Google Apps might be the future they are not the present.

Also this week I learned that IBM is launching, or maybe re-launching, a office automation suite called Symphony. Lotus Symphony was an integrated office package in the days of 8Mhz 80286 CPUs with 640k RAM. It worked but not well enough too make much of a mark.

Why has IBM done this?
Will Google Apps (or ADSL) ever be stable enough to challenge desktop software?
Will NeoOffice or Apple displace Microsoft on the Mac?

I don’t know the answers to these questions but I do see the start of a change.