Microsoft Office and the Big Subscription Bet

Well it’s been another wild week here in the Linux blogosphere, what with all the ruckus emanating out of the bordering Redmond territories.

Much like what happened last fall when Windows 8 made its fanfare-filled debut, the launch of Office 2013 and 365 last Tuesday left more than a few Linux bloggers with a ringing in the ears that didn’t abate for days.

“Microsoft Cuts Ribbon on Low-Rent Office” was one of the more straightforward headlines to appear. It wasn’t long, however, before the complexity of Microsoft’s new productivity scheme became plainly clear.

‘5 Open Alternatives’

To wit: “Decoding Microsoft Office: Which Office version does what?” was one attempt to clarify and bring some sanity to the situation.

Then, perhaps more critically, there was, “Not ready for Office 2013? Here are five open alternatives.”

There’s no doubt Redmond is trying a different tack this time around, perhaps in its effort to fend off the growing number of free and open source competitors.

How will it fare? Now that’s a topic on which FOSS fans have had plenty to say.

‘Why Should I Care?’

“On my personal scale of interest from a 1 to 10, this is about -4,” Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien told Linux Girl over a fresh round down at the blogosphere’s Broken Windows Lounge.

“LibreOffice does everything I need, and in fact I keep learning about new things I can do in LibreOffice,” O’Brien explained. “I even carry it with me on USB Thumb drive in the Portable Apps version.

“So please explain to me why I should care about overpriced bloatware?” he concluded. “And don’t get me started on the $%^**#%$ Ribbon.”

‘Time We Moved On’

Indeed, “I can honestly say this new version of Office interests me not even a little, and nowhere near enough to make me take out my wallet,” agreed Google+ blogger Linux Rants.

“There are free Office suites that more than meet my needs, and I’d wager the needs of the vast majority of Office users,” he added. “Maybe it’s time we stopped filling Microsoft’s coffers and moved on.”

Blogger Robert Pogson said he has only used Office a few times in the past decade.

“I installed 1.0 within hours of its release and have never willingly used M$’s office suite since,” Pogson told Linux Girl. “OO 1.0 failed frequently; by 2.0 it ran smoothly for me, and now I use LibreOffice 3.6.

“If M$’s office suite costs $100 per annum, I have saved more than $1K because I don’t have much worry about malware or licensing and I have had export to PDF so many years longer,” he added.

‘Willing Slaves’

LibreOffice is easier to use “because of the user interface,” Pogson opined. “I once helped a citizen install M$’s office suite. It took several adults to figure out just how to open the damned box, and we never did figure out the ‘Ribbon.'”

In the meantime, “the citizen had some work to do, so I installed,” he added. “Easy. Download and install. No need to ‘accept’ a EULA or to do things M$’s way.”

Unfortunately, “many businesses accept M$’s office suite as a necessary tool,” Pogson noted. “M$ has made them willing slaves.”

The new pricing scheme, meanwhile, “is just M$’s way to increase costs while the monopoly shrinks,” he added. “The sooner everyone switches to LibreOffice, the better.

“Where I have worked none of the tasks could not be done with LibreOffice, and converting documents in bulk is easy if not perfect,” Pogson concluded.

‘A Giant Meh’

“Honestly, most of the people I know stopped at 2K7,” Google+ blogger hairyfeet said. “A few went 2K10, but nearly everybody I know jumped off the upgrade wagon at 2K7, so it honestly won’t affect me or my shop any.

“Let’s face it: There really isn’t anything to ‘innovate’ when it comes to office,” hairyfeet added. “Those that want collaboration are using Google Docs, and everybody else is happy with what they have.”

In fact, “this is the biggest problem MSFT has been facing (besides the CEO being terrible), in that when it comes to OSes and Office suites, “if it ain’t broke,” why waste money fixing it?” he pointed out. “I still use my ancient Office 2K on my netbook — it’s ultra lightweight, which is perfect for a netbook, and with the converter pack I can open and save in the latest formats.

“So why switch?” hairyfeet concluded. “2K13 is a giant meh as far as I’m concerned.”

‘Not Quality-Related’

If Office 2013 is ODF-compatible, “that would be the only thing to be happy about,”opined Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. “Basically, after MS Office 2003 users have been divided into hating and liking that office suite, mainly because of the huge changes in look and feel and the utilities.

“As in everything that company produces, the majority of the changes are visual and not quality-related,” he added.

“So, if you are not a big fan of microsoft, why bother thinking what 2013 would bring, anyway??” he mused. “Rather, change to LibreOffice at once: easier to use, ODF native format, PDF export from every part of the suite, and 100 percent free and open source.”

‘Dead in the Water’

Robin Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor, had a more optimistic outlook for Microsoft.

The Office 365 subscription package and the Office on Demand feature are both interesting, opined Lim, as is the cloud integration and built-in online storage.

“I have migrated to Google Docs, so I won’t be giving Office 2013 and Office 365 a look,” he noted, “but I think a lot of people will. The only fly in the ointment is the absence of Android and iOS versions.”

In fact, “Apple’s iWork would probably be dead in the water if Microsoft ever decided to wade into iOS waters,” Lim suggested.

“As for LibreOffice and OpenOffice, well these two have plenty of work to do,” Lim concluded. “One of them should hurry, come up with a mobile version and strike a deal with Dropbox.”

‘All Wrong’

Last but not least, Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol offered a succinct summary.

“MS is completely clueless,” Ebersol told Linux Girl. “With many competitors in the boxing ring these days, and it is charging more for the same thing? And will cease functions if the subscription is not paid?

“All wrong,” he opined. “If that had happened in 2005 or 2006, OK — they had no competition back then. Now? Google Docs will eat MS’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They only seem to miss the target these days…”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

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