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linuxmaveric 05-28-2008 01:36 AM

The Fall of Microsoft Office
The Fall of Microsoft Office
By Anders Bylund (TMF Zahrim) May 27, 2008 Comments (1)

2 Recommendations

On the same day that the state of New York published a report supporting open formats for electronic documents, mighty Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) said that it would support the open-source ODF format in Office 2007. Redmond's own Open Office XML specification may be heading for the great Recycle Bin in the sky, never to come back.

What happened?
The twin developments are noteworthy to astute investors for multiple reasons. While several European countries, the EU itself, and the state of Massachusetts have distanced themselves from proprietary document formats like Word's .doc text documents and Excel's .xls spreadsheets, the same scene looks much more dramatic from the lofty heights of the Empire State.

Across the continent, Mr. Softy rarely throws in the towel until he knows that he's been beaten. Just look at the measures the company is willing to take to stay in the online search fight, despite being thoroughly dominated by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and even Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO). Redmond's hardly fond of wasting its resources, because the company has a pretty good track record in these extra-innings showdowns. But its winning streak only makes its surrender here that much more glaring, especially when the company's backing down on turf it actually created years ago.

Why is this a big deal?
Office apps are big business for Microsoft. The Microsoft business division, where Office sales make up the bulk of the operation, provided $18.3 billion out of the company's $58 billion in sales in the past year. The business division also brought in $11.9 billion out of $20.8 billion in operating profit. If the golden Office goose leaves the building, Mr. Softy will be very sad indeed.

That's why Microsoft has been so keen to keep the inner workings of its file formats secret, so that upstarts like Corel (Nasdaq: CREL) WordPerfect or IBM's (NYSE: IBM) Lotus Office would never get the details quite right. It seems that the open-source ODF format, first spawned by Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: JAVA) and popularized by the free office suite, has finally broken the camel's back.

To be sure, various legal challenges to the Microsoft monopoly also helped, and perhaps some other third-party specification would have received this newfound support if ODF wasn't there. The antitrust departments domestically and abroad might have played a large part in forcing Microsoft's hand here. In the end, this can't be good for Microsoft's ego -- or its business.

It's a new world, baby
Most of the Office alternatives that support ODF files today have a serious price advantage over Microsoft's products (you can't beat free). And while their support for true-blue Microft-generated files is good, it's not perfect. In that light, you can understand why there must have been a lot of hair-pulling and tooth-gnashing -- maybe even some chair-throwing -- in Redmond before Microsoft made this difficult decision.

When creating business documents in Google Docs, ZoHo, or OpenOffice and sharing them with users of vanilla MS Office becomes both simple and a guaranteed success, there will be much less reason for users to cling to proprietary, locked-in formats. After that, users and IT managers can choose alternative office suites without alienating the regular Office users of the world, and Microsoft will have to protect its cash cow through excellent support, great design, and useful new features, rather than just guarding the well-worn standard upgrade path.

I can't say that Google or Sun or anybody else just won a bigger share of the office software market, and if they did, it won't help their revenue or profits directly anyway. But it's clear as day that Microsoft just took a serious hit, and the impact may take a long time to make itself felt but it will come.

The company's biggest revenue generator may be a shadow of its former self in a few years. I just hope that Microsoft has some alternative business prospects on tap -- and no, tackling Google's search hulk head-on doesn't count.
Link to story @

b0uncer 05-28-2008 12:35 PM

I wouldn't call that "the fall of Microsoft Office". It can't be expected that if a product once dominates the market, it would do so forever..but that doesn't mean either that it would be the end of the product if it starts losing it's throne.

pixellany 05-28-2008 03:05 PM

Is this copied from somewhere?? Assuming that it is, please give the citation, link, whatever.

Turbocapitalist 05-29-2008 12:05 AM

In regards to imperfect support, "And while their support for true-blue Microft-generated files is good, it's not perfect". The article could be improved to point out that while third party support for MS secret binary files is not perfect, it's often better than with MS own products.

sundialsvcs 05-30-2008 07:16 AM

Having valuable information in an undocumented format has never, ever made sense. Microsoft already uses XML for a lot of things, and I do not think that they are seriously threatening their position by hiding away the document-format. I also don't think that it's "the end of Office" for them to reveal it or to adopt a different scheme.

Most likely, it's market demand that's pushing them to store documents in a format that is easily understood and manipulated by others, and by other tools. Documenting the PDF-format didn't break Acrobat.

pinniped 05-30-2008 08:09 AM

MS won't support ODF either - they'll have their special 'extensions' so that you'll need to buy an MS product to read a 'standard' format file.

monsm 06-03-2008 08:38 AM

I agree, a bit quick to pronounce the death of MS Office.

I presume the story comes from here:

They have decided to join the ODF group while putting back the next OOXML to office 14. I guess this means they keep support of the current version of OOXML while they add support for ODF. Then they bring in a new OOXML version later.
They must be hoping that the uptake of ODF will remain limited while they keep OOXML as the default format in their products.

MS Office might see their share of the market reduced over the next few years, but it is a long way to go before its dead.

mafiltenborg 06-04-2008 02:54 AM

Oh yes - i believe MS has taken a hit. But i also believe they're not in any way going to back down! The company has merely realized that applying theireveryday schoolyard-bully-approach (Yahoo, Netscape, Stacker etc.) doesn't work in the current environment. Low-blows in full public spotlight tends to upset people.

So what next? Failing to apply brute force with success, let's try it another way round.

Enter "Embrace, extend, extinguish"!

First we embrace ODF - add support for it. Everybody's happy.
Then we extend ODF - users will actually be happy, as they get 'more'.
And finally we extinguish the competition!

Did that before - just look it up on wikipedia.

"Extend ODF?" you may wonder. Yup! They managed to extend html. So why not? I mean - there's no law against adding nice stuff to a de jure standard, eh? Making a de facto standard out of it...

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