Does Microsoft need to go cross-platform to save Office? - InformationWeek

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03:21 PM
Irwin Lazar
Irwin Lazar
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Does Microsoft need to go cross-platform to save Office?

As Mac usage continues to climb in the enterprise, IT staffs are faced with ever increasing challenges of supporting multiple office suites. IBM and Sun see this as an opportunity, does Microsoft see the threat?

IT executives particapting in Nemertes latest research benchmark say that Mac use is on the rise, thanks to the Halo effect making its way from iPod, to home/school Mac, to office Mac. Thirty-three percent of participants say their adoption of non-Windows computers will grow in the next year. But supporting Macs in the enterprise creates a problem as incompatibility issues between different office suites leads to calls to the help desk as well as increasing user frustration.

IBM sensed an opportunity to take market share from Microsoft when it decided to develop and give away its OpenOffice-based Lotus Symphony suite, as well as deliver a single version of Notes that looks/runs/acts the same whether on Mac, Windows (or even Linux). Sun's OpenOffice 3.x also supports seamlessly supports all three environments. Each of these alternatives is getting a look from IT shops interested in avoiding compatibility issues by settling on a single suite of applications.

In my company for example, our Mac users are putting OpenOffice 3.x through its paces and while it does lack a few high-level editing and reviewing features we extensively use, it can indeed replace MS Office for most tasks, and for most workers (it sure would be great to see an embedded clip-art library though!).

But Microsoft continues with a dual platform strategy - separately developed products for Mac and Win, and no offerings yet for Linux other than terminal-server or web-based interfaces. Microsoft obviously continues to own the lions share of the Office productivity suite, but the cracks are starting to show. Perhaps its time that Microsoft finally consider extending it's Windows version of Office to the Mac and Linux world?

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