Should Microsoft rollover and play dead to Open Office?

Competing Against Open Source Is Not Hating Open Source

OK all of you Microsoft haters, take your bloomers back down from being twisted around your necks. Microsoft put out a YouTube bashing a competitor and everyone is yelling that Microsoft went back on their word and they hate Open Source after all. Is Microsoft not allowed to compete against open source alternatives?  Of course they are. In doing so it does not mean they hate open source.

My friend, fellow Open Source Net blogger and editor, Julie Bort started the drums ringing with her article bemoaning that Microsoft was trying "to scare users away from Open Office". She wants Microsoft to "snap out of it".  But Julie's reaction is actually pale to some of the others around the web. Over on ZDNet the reaction is that Microsoft was just paying lip service to open source all this time and their true colors have come out once again.

The ZDNet article is particularly funny because he defends open source with much of the same old tired arguments that we have seen between Microsoft and the open source community in the past. In response to Microsoft's claim about lack of commercial support for OpenOffice, the ZDNet blogger responds:

The video also claims that there was no support for open source software. You have to be kidding, open source is known to have some of the best support out there, because everybody, let me repeat, everybody has access to the code. This opens up the support worldwide among all users of the software.

Really? REALLY? Everybody knows that open source is known to have some of the best support out there because everybody (he wants to repeat it) has access to the code? Since when does having access to the code equate with providing support.  Next time you have an urgent issue with an open source application post a support request on a forum and let me know how that works for you.  You may get an answer, but it may or may not be right and it probably wont' be very quick.

Come on now, everyone having access to the code leads to having more eyes look for more robust code, even perhaps more security code. But it does not equal support. That is why there are companies out there whose whole business models are based on providing commercial level support for open source software.

But let me make another point. If Microsoft had run a similar video saying that Oracle's database was not as good as MS SQL server would there still be such an uproar? If they said Oracle was overpriced, the total cost of ownership (TCO) was way out of line compared to the Microsoft product and that Oracle's support stunk. Would everyone be yelling FUD and crying foul?  I don't think so.

The fact is that OpenOffice is owned by Oracle (as Julie points out as part of OpenOffice's good news streak, Oracle reaffirmed its support). It is also probably the leading office productivity suite after Microsoft's Office. Why shouldn't Microsoft be able to bash its leading competitor? No one ever complains when people bash Microsoft.

Pointing out their advantages over the competition and by having actual customers relating their real life experiences regarding open source is not hating open source.  It is competing. Should we have special rules for competing against open source.  Does Microsoft need kid gloves when competing with open source?

If the open source product cannot withstand the competition, it does not deserve to be there. Treating open source apps like some special class that we are not aloud to bash is not healthy for anyone in the equation: Microsoft, OpenOffice or users of the software.

So let the market decide. OpenOffice is growing up. It is good enough to compete with Microsoft Office (I use it myself on many of my computers). I have never needed support with it and Microsoft can't compete against the price points. But lets not tell Microsoft they have to tie one hand behind their backs. Let people decide what they want to use. 

Asking Microsoft to rollover and give the market to OpenOffice is just plain silly.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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