OpenOffice's apparent mission creep

OpenOffice can't even effectively battle Microsoft Office. Why would it even think of taking on Outlook?

Apparently, OpenOffice 3.0 is intent on picking a fight with Microsoft Outlook. Bonne chance, mes amis. I don't mean to imply that it can't be done, but am rather suggesting that this is not the right way to go about it. Zimbra, sure. Or Mozilla's Thunderbird (standalone), sure. But bundled into OpenOffice? I'm not seeing it.

This arises from a presentation delivered earlier this year at the OpenOffice conference:

One thing that really caught my attention was (a) reference to including a Personal Information Manager (PIM) (in OpenOffice). More specifically the presentation mentions bundling Thunderbird with their Office Suite, and refers to it as an "Outlook replacement."

Bundling a runner-up PIM/e-mail suite with a runner-up Office replacement? Not likely. Disruption is the way to go, and the combination is not disruptive.

Zimbra changes the game sufficiently, and is innovative in its own right, such that I can see people being patient with it to overlook some of its weaknesses relative to Outlook to give it a shot. (My own company is currently looking to do just that, and not even remotely out of religious open-source reasons.)

Thunderbird is the same, if it can generate enough of a community around it. If Mozilla can achieve the same plug-in community around Thunderbird that it has around Firefox, then it would be a winner, even if corporate IT took eons to adopt it (which it will).

But marrying Thunderbird to OpenOffice is a losing strategy, because OpenOffice has yet to prove that it knows how to grow a viable community around it. OpenOffice would need to be substantially rewritten and have its community procedures significantly overhauled before it could be a strong Trojan Horse for other open-source projects to flourish. Today, OpenOffice is quite good and something I actually recommend to neighbors and family members. It works.

But not because of any vibrant community around it, and that is the major thing holding it back. Until it groks community, OpenOffice is a losing competitor to Microsoft Office, and burdening itself with yet another Microsoft turf war would only exacerbate the problem, not ameliorate it.

So, cute idea. But I'd rather fix OpenOffice first before anyone kicks mission creep into overdrive with it.

Via Slashdot.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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