Why does Microsoft fear OpenOffice.org?

It's well-known that Microsoft worries that Google Docs may eat into the profits of the Microsoft Office cash cow. But Microsoft also appears to be extremely worried that an unlikely source may be a major threat as well --- OpenOffice.org. At least that's what a recent job posting at Microsoft shows. And market share numbers back it up.

Glyn Moody of Computerworld UK uncovered a job posting for "Linux and Open Office Compete Lead, US Subsidiary (CSI Lead)". CSI stands for Commercial Software Initiative and according to the job posting, CSI's primary mission "is to win share against Linux and OpenOffice.org."

The job posting itself is so filled with pointless jargon that it's almost a parody of business-speak. But Moody points out this interesting fact --- there are now 13 "district Linux& Open Office Compete Leads" whose sole jobs are to target Linux and OpenOffice.org.

Targeting Linux is no surprise, of course. But OpenOffice.org? Most people think that it's barely a blip on Microsoft's radar. Clearly, it's far more than that, and the numbers back that up. According to the exo.performance.network, a monitoring tool that claims to receive real-time data from more than 21,000 PCs and servers around the world, OpenOffice.org has around a 12 percent share of the office suite market on Windows-based PCs. You can see the chart, below. The charts shows OpenOffice.or market share compared to various versions of Microsoft Office.

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It's hard to gauge the accuracy of that number, but even if OpenOffice.org had half that market share on Windows PCs, it would represent a very large chunk of revenue.

Even more problematic than existing market share is future market share. Linux is apparently still making big inroads on netbooks, and you can bet that a substantial number of Linux-based netbooks use OpenOffice.org. The combination of Linux and OpenOffice.org clearly has Microsoft very worried.

I've used OpenOffice.org on my PCs, Mac, and Linux-based PCs, and I'm a fan of it. It's clearly not as powerful or easy to use as Microsoft Office, and has some maddening drawbacks on certain platforms. But you can't argue with free, and that's what has Microsoft worried.

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