Why Google should embrace OpenOffice

If Google really wanted to deliver a knockout punch to Microsoft, it would integrate OpenOffice with Google Docs, and sell support for the combined suite to small businesses, medium-sized business, and large corporations. Given the reach of Google, the quality of OpenOffice, and the lure of free, it's a sure winner.

As I've written in my review of OpenOffice, it does pretty much everything that Microsoft Office does — but at zero cost. True, there are a few high-end bells and whistles that it lacks, but most people don't use them.

Imagine if a version of it were available as a Web service from Google, combined with massive amounts of Google storage. Integrated with Google Docs, it would also allow online collaboration. For those who wanted more features, the full OpenOffice suite would be available as a client — supported by Google.

Google would make its money selling support for the suite, as well as selling storage, email hosting, and other business services.

If this happened, it's not just Microsoft's revenue from Office that would be endangered. So would Windows revenue as well. Given that most people mainly use computers for office suites and browsers, businesses could get by on the new generation of low-cost, Linux-based Atom-based PCs that are coming out from Asus and others. They would save tremendous amounts of money on buying Windows, Office, as well as high-end hardware.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to see this happen. Just yesterday, IBM announced that it was selling support for its free Symphony office suite. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine Google doing the same for OpenOffice, after it integrates it with Google Docs.

By the way, there is a way to integrate OpenOffice with Google Docs yourself, with a free OpenDocs extension. For details, check out my blog entry.

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