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Sorry, but is an also-ran ... and always will be

I was amused to discover the headline Another Microsoft Headache: 3.0 popping up in my search of Yahoo! News this morning, and just had to look. In a low-caffeine version of the "This is the year of desktop Linux" type-story, Ed Moltzen at CRN engages in a bit of wishful thinking:

The community is now beta testing the next major upgrade to its office productivity suite, version 3.0, and there is enough in it to cause Microsoft some more worry.

For starters, the latest version is offering native GUI support on the Mac OS X platform, where growth rates are far outpacing Windows PCs (another Microsoft headache). That will make it easier for all those folks buying MacBook Air notebooks or iMacs to download it, install it and get to work.

And face it: it's a different PC market with many, many more people working on more than one PC. How attractive an option is it to throw an extra $499 for a second Office license onto a second PC that only runs $399 itself?

Wow. I mean, wow.

Two points here:

1. Virtually no one who buys a Mac is ever going to consider We've had "native GUI" versions of this suite for years on the Windows side and we don't care about it either, so there's nothing to suggest that the Starbucks-visiting, Izod-wearing MacBook Air crowd is going to be any more susceptible to the almost-compatible-with-Office tomfoolery offered by this free product. You don't spend $2000+ on a MacBook Air and then cheap out on the most important software you need, sorry.

2. Office doesn't cost $499. Or $399. It costs $149 ... or much less. Normal people--i.e. the vast majority of individuals who actually use Office get new versions of the suite with a new PC, where the cost of Office is typically much lower. Those who buy it at retail--all 17 of them--get Office Home and Student 2007. Which costs $149, max. That's assuming you don't find it for less. Which you will: It's $109 on today. (There's even a Mac version for $129, today at Guess which version Mac users are buying in bigger-than-ever numbers?  Hint: It's not the expensive version.)

If you're looking for basic Office productivity software with middling Microsoft Office compatibility, is there for the taking. It's been there for the taking for years. There haven't been very many takers. And for good reason: The only headache it causes is for users. Not for Microsoft.


Side-note: As we move to the cloud computing future, old-fashioned, copy-cat office productivity suites like are about as exciting as The MSN Network (MSN) was in 1995: The world is moving on, people. While today's cloud computing solutions like Google Docs aren't quite as "full-featured" as, I think they make more sense, especially if you can get an offline Google Gears-based thing going. Check out Zoho Writer for an even better example. It may not be giving Microsoft headaches (yet), but I bet there's a low-grade twitch starting up somewhere in Redmond.

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