Free software puts pressure on Microsoft

Microsoft is poised to release the latest version of Microsoft Office, the wildly successful (and profitable) office software that runs on many corporate and home computers today.

Microsoft is poised to release the latest version of Microsoft Office, the wildly successful (and profitable) office software that runs on many corporate and home computers today.

Office 2010 will come out officially early next year and will feature a Web-based component to compete with Google’s online office suite.

That means at least part of Microsoft Office will move online for free, at least for some users. That will give users online access to many popular Office features via a Web browser (likely Internet Explorer) for collaboration and sharing of data.

I would expect the cost to be subsidized by online ads next to your document or spreadsheet.

The new Office suite, meanwhile, will include lots of new revisions and features, some of which have not been completely disclosed. Generally, they’ll focus on allowing users to work together easier and faster.

Workers often are in different locations and wish to work together on spreadsheets and documents. A pre-release version is being offered to some users this month.

Microsoft’s real struggles are over how to price this product and how to handle the online component.

Give away too much Office online and the company risks giving away a huge financial portion of its business; Office and Windows are the most important products in Microsoft’s portfolio.

Give away too little, and Google eventually will eat Microsoft’s lunch.

In lean times, companies will look at Microsoft’s Office product at a couple of hundred dollars a seat and Google at zero per seat and think, “Hmmmm.”

Free may be more compelling even if Google’s offering is not as good.

I think Microsoft will start off slow, maybe with just Word and Excel – light versions of them, at that – and then gauge the marketplace’s reaction.

I doubt most consumers will embrace online Word and Excel versions anytime soon.

For one, consumers are not flooding to the Google versions in the numbers that company had expected. For two, OpenOffice poses a wrench in the engine.

Anyone can download OpenOffice today for free at openoffice.org.

The open-source site offers a full-featured Office suite for nothing: no advertising support, no nothing. Just download it, install it and go.

Some colleges and businesses have already moved to OpenOffice to save money, and I expect others to give it a look.

The real interesting development in computing today is the move toward “free” software such as anti-virus products (look for Microsoft’s soon), office suites, browsers, image manipulators and more. Many smart and talented developers are willing to give their talents to the open-source community, for one.

Companies such as Microsoft are reacting to market pressures from existing free products.

What it means to the consumer is more and better free stuff in the weeks and months to come.

James Derk owns CyberDads, a computer-repair firm. E-mail him at jim@cyberdads.com.

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

Dharmesh Goradia, and his daughter Vidhi and wife Chaitali, at the 2017 festival for the Godess Durga, held at the Golden Circle. (Photo contributed)
Draft curriculum misses the mark for central Alberta Hindu society

Meeting scheduled with Alberta Education officials

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Air Canada says it will recall more than 2,600 employees who were furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta’s tourism sector hurt by COVID-19 pandemic: ATB Financial

Between border closures, public health measures and hesitancy to travel, Alberta’s tourism… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Most Read