A recently released OpenOffice.org marketing video from Microsoft attempts to highlight prospective issues for companies considering alternatives to Microsoft Office. While the video suggests OpenOffice.org is increasingly becoming a viable alternative to Microsoft Office, the video also presents insights into Microsoft’s business growth strategy for Microsoft Office.

The title of the video, “A few perspectives on OpenOffice.org“, could suggest a balanced view from OpenOffice.org users. However, the quotes, which can be grouped into the following five categories, are far from balanced.

  • Anti-open source
  • OpenOffice.org increases IT costs
  • Users already have Microsoft Office skills
  • OpenOffice.org lacks Microsoft Office interoperability
  • OpenOffice.org lacks Microsoft’s feature completeness

The marketing video includes fifteen customer quotes largely from existing Microsoft Office case studies.

Anti-open source quotes
“I need something I can rely on. If an open source based system breaks, who’s going to fix it?”
Jeff Cimmerer, Director of Technology
Pittsford School Districts, USA

“A hugely disproportionate 30 percent of our IT resources was required for a period of months to service open source…an estimated 25 percent of additional staff time was routinely required to install and maintain open source-based systems”
David Sterling, ICT Manager
Central Scotland Police, Scotland

OpenOffice.org increases IT costs quotes
“We originally installed Linux based PCs running OpenOffice to save money in the short term. But we quickly found that the exorbitant cost and limited availability of support left us worse off.
James Fleming, Infrastructure and Support Manager
Speedy Hire, UK

“We were accustomed to fielding calls from users in a bind due to difficulties with OpenOffice.org on a daily basis”
Eugenio Mariotto, ICT Director
Cobra Automotive Technologies, Italy

“The company paid too much for using open code, OpenOffice.org software. The efficiency of operations was decreasing.
Leonid Medvediev, Head of IT Department, CJSC SPC
Borschagivskiy Chemical and Pharmaceutical Plant, Ukraine

Users already have Microsoft Office skills quotes
“New employees lacked OpenOffice.org applications’ use skills that significantly increased employees’ adaptation period and adversely affected their operational efficiency.”
Igor Gentosh, Head of Systems Integration Department
Kredobank JSC, Ukraine

“Our users’ familiarity with the Microsoft Office interface and the uniformity of different application tools have minimized calls to the help desk.”
Tiziona Battilana, Information Systems Coordinator
Euromobil Group, Italy

“When we returned to Microsoft Office after our experience with OpenOffice, we could practically hear a collective sigh of relief across the entire district”
Bailey Mitchell, Chief Information Officer
Forsyth County Schools, USA

“By using Microsoft Office 2007, we have reduced the internal support costs significantly because our staff is familiar with this system. This increases acceptance and job satisfaction.
Joerg Lenze, System Administrator
Heinrich Berndes Haushaltstechnik GmbH & Co KG, Germany

OpenOffice.org lacks Microsoft Office interoperability quotes
“With OpenOffice.org there was total uncertainty about the formatting of documents and also about their inconsistency when shared outside our production group.”
Eros Borgogelli, Information System Coordinator
Ciar, Italy

“Employees using OpenOffice.org weren’t always capable of correctly making sense of documents arriving from outside the company, and doing so with adequate security guarantees.
Eugenio Mariotto, ICT Director
Cobra Automotive Technologies, Italy

OpenOffice.org lacks Microsoft’s feature completeness quotes
“When I open a large spreadsheet, it can take ten times longer in OpenOffice.org than Office Excel 2007”
Sergey Sakharov, Business Process Optimization Manager
Art of Transport Logistics, Russia

“Our employees were frustrated because OpenOffice and our overall IT environment prevented them from being more productive”
Darek Muraszko, Information Systems Administrator
Kaczmarski Inkasso, Poland

“When I was using OpenOffice.org, I was especially having trouble with macros not being supported enough. I was asking for help from the IT department. They evaluated my request and suggested that I use Microsoft Excel.”
Bulent Turker, Product Manager
Scarves Department, SARAR Group, Turkey

“I’ve had students who turned in files that they’ve converted from OpenOffice with formatting problems. That affects their grades.”
Tisome Nugent, Educator
Orange County Public Schools, USA

The marketing video has received a generally negative response from open source pundits, with many concluding, “Microsoft is validating OpenOffice.org as a viable alternative to Microsoft Office”.

Considering the ninety percent plus share Microsoft Office has in the office productivity market, why would Microsoft validate OpenOffice.org?

At this share level, it’s virtually impossible for Microsoft to grow its Office business unit revenue faster than the rate of growth of new businesses added to the global marketplace. Eastern European countries present attractive growth opportunities, likely the largest opportunities outside of China, India and Brazil.

Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of businesses quoted in the video are from growing economies in Europe, largely from Eastern European countries such as Russia, Turkey, Poland and Ukraine. Not a single quote is from a US headquartered company. In fact, the only North American-based quotes are from two school districts.

Enterprises in emerging markets are able to make greenfield technology decisions – not typically possible in the established North American and Western European markets. Emerging markets also have fewer employees with established Microsoft Office skills. These enterprises are also more willing to consider open source software, especially when initial cost of acquisition is a critical software decision criterion.

Emerging markets are so important to the future of Microsoft Office’s revenue stream that Microsoft is willing to validate OpenOffice.org as a competitor in the eyes of existing Microsoft Office customers in the West. This must have been an explicit strategic decision by the Microsoft Office division.

The reality is that North American and Western European companies already using Microsoft Office, with employees possessing Microsoft Office skills, face several barriers to leaving the Microsoft Office ecosystem. The cost of migration, training and interoperability often counter balance the costs savings of using a Microsoft Office alternative.  In essence, Microsoft is betting that existing customers will, by in large, remain customers, and the real competitive environment are new enterprises in emerging markets.

IT decision makers in the West or emerging markets should understand a vendor’s business strategy before evaluating vendor marketing and product offerings. This recommendation couldn’t hold truer, than when evaluating marketing materials from the Microsoft Office division.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.