8 Reasons Why OpenOffice 3.0 Could Be The Tipping Point Application (or not?)

It has been nearly 24 hours now that OpenOffice.org website has been under unprecedented demand following the release of the third version of OpenOffice.org, so much so that the site is being completely hammered.

You may still be able to download the various flavours of the Open Source business suite from other websites though (betanews or Softpedia).

Here are 10 reasons why OpenOffice is now ready to take on its main opponent, Microsoft Office in a race for hearts and minds.

(a) It is and will continue to be free. Ever since Sun Microsystems released it to the open source community. And now with more than 100 million downloads, it is by far the most popular free application around (not counting in Firefox). As the global economic slowdown forces companies to review their expenses, proponents of Openoffice.org will find it easier to convince decision makers that free is the price to pay. But then, very few companies foot the hefty initial outlay for Microsoft Office Licenses as this is often spread over a period of time to reduce the cost of acquisition. This can, in many cases, fall around £10 per seat per month, which for many companies is worth the hassle.

(b) Openoffice is now better supported than ever with more than 700 books available at Amazon and hundreds of courses accessible worldwide. However, corporate support is still quite thin. For example, openoffice.org is not present on Keystone learning systems, VTC or Learning tree, arguably three of the bigger e-learning companies around. And those who do offer courses have forgotten to update their courses.

(c) Openoffice is multi platform with now native support for Macintosh users. But we would dearly wish for an online version and a mobile one which would pip Microsoft. Openoffice is too bloated right now to work on any portable platform and even Openoffice.org portable needs to be trimmed down before envisaging an Android-version.

(d) Openoffice is faster than previous versions of the business suite. But it still not fast enough. We've performed a few tests in the office and we've experienced significant sluggishness when opening even simple documents (see picture) or even starting applications themselves. Although one has to bear in mind that the tests were not conducted in a scientific way, it shows to some extent that Openoffice has yet some work to do before getting on par with Microsoft Office 2007 (the tests were carried out on a Core 2 Duo HP PC with 2GB memory).

(e) Openoffice boosts an impressive list of compatible formats including Office 2007 docx and OOXML format. And no longer crashes or freezes when converting very large, memory hungry documents. But we've noticed that there are still minor incompatibilities that bugs Open Office (images not properly aligned in our unscientific tests, margins not respected).

(f) Openoffice has a new smart centre which mimics very loosely, Microsoft own Works suite central dashboard (see picture). Rather than having several executables files running, the user will now only see one soffice.bin executable, a different approach, to say, Google Chrome. Nice but then when one application crashes, it takes away other Open Office windows that are opened.

(g) Openoffice still have a few "native" cards that Microsoft has yet to catch up with. Microsoft still hasn't an application equivalent to Draw or save directly to PDF and it is not as "hackable" as Openoffice. But then Microsoft has a remarkably well organised Office Portalthat has a number of resources that every Office user should at least explore.

(h) Openoffice has Sun Microsystems and IBM on its side. Microsoft may be backing Office but IBM and Sun Microsystems have already committed their support to Openoffice.org. IBM has had the opportunity to opensource Lotus Smartsuite, but chose not too. Instead, it rebadged Openoffice as Lotus Symphony and pitted it squarely against Microsoft with Big Blue support.

But while Openoffice and Microsoft Office are locked into a death match, web-based applications are catching up. Quickly. Microsoft has already committed to unleashing Albany, its cheap Microsoft Office suite. It has also hinted that it could give Microsoft Works free by pulling in advertising support. Google is gradually building up its software-as-a-service platform, with a particular emphasis on collaboration, something that Openoffice is sorely missing.

So while Openoffice could be the tipping point, it could well come up too late to prevent SaaS from toppling desktop-based applications.