As Zorak would say, "Stick it to the man!"
From the ranks of the Linux zealots and Sun Microsystems hatred of Microsoft comes, dun dunna duhhh...the OPEN OFFICE PROJECT! Finally us cheap bastards who have been pirating copies of Microsoft Office from friends, relatives and the work place have a totally free and usable office suite.Ok ok there was Suns' StarOffice 5.2 a few years ago. But it lacked two key things that OpenOffice 1.0 has.
The first is real usability. StarOffice was overly complex and confusing. Even to someone who knows applications (me!). Also it was so very different compared to Microsoft Office, which most of the world is familiar with using. It's hard to get momentum away from Microsoft when the general public, which barely was aware of it's existance and corperate America, who would have to retrain all it's users, most of which are as computer literate as a native of the Brazilian jungles, cannot see the cost savings. After all why use a free, but harder to use suite, that may or may not work properly with your system at work/school, when you can "borrow" a copy of Microsoft Office, for free, and have the consistancy and compatibility that you need. Most users at home AND the office didn't even realize they were breaking the law by doing so. After all it's a dubious law as it is.
That takes us to the second reason Sun's StarOffice didn't take off. Ok we kinda sorta covered it. Basically now, with Microsoft Office XP and all future releases, friends and family will not be able to borrow each others CDs. Now us cheapies will have to find alternatives. I don't know about you, but I'm not about to shell out $500-600 for Microsoft Office just to make sure my blog is spell checked! StarOffice is now at version 6.0 and they improved the problems I listed in part 1, however now they are charging for it! it's still reasonable, around $50-60. However, people are used to not having to pay for it. In a way it's become an expected part of the computer. You "have" to have a word processor and spreadsheet program. The other stuff is negotiable. Microsoft wants to gouge you for the privilage of using thier software. Screw that. Sun is being nice and reasonable. OpenOffice.org is saying, hey we're not perfect, but we're FREE!
Actually StarOffice and OpenOffice were being developed in tandem for quite some time until Sun broke off and decided to do some of thier own polishing. This means you'll get much of the compatibility and improved interface with OpenOffice, but without the small overhead cost that Sun is charging.
Is it perfect? Nope. Does it get the job done with minimal waste? You betcha! Most people don't use but 5% of all the "features" that are in Microsoft Word. You can be sure that 5% will work and work will in OpenOffice, as well as other popular features.
Bottom line is this. If you are a home user you shouldn't feel or be forced to use Microsoft products. Nor should you have to resort to stealing to get the tools you need at a reasonable price. Microsoft wants you to pay out the ass for a pretty basic product. And they wonder why people pirate it! It has nothing to do with morals and everything to do with market value. If people got thier moneys worth out of Word in a reasonable amount of time, so that the cost was offset by the gain, piracy would be much less than it is now.
OpenOffice.org gives people a way to "stick it to the man" without breaking "the law".