Somewhere, someone out there is saying "Told you so!" The reason? Oracle has begun charging $90 per user on a plug-in for Microsoft Office that Sun Microsystems used to give away for free.
The tool makes it so Word, Excel, and PowerPoint users can read, edit, and save documents in the ODF (Open Document Format), the same one used by OpenOffice. Oracle's only selling the plug-in in quantities of 100 or more, which works out to $9,000 per order, at least for the perpetual license. Oracle also offers 1-5 year licenses ranging in price from $18 to $63 per user, which are also only available in quantities of 100 or more.
If that weren't enough of a 'gotcha,' customers who wish to receive upgrades in the future must also purchase a support contract.
Earlier this year, Microsoft said it would add native support for the Open Document Format (ODF) due in part to increasing pressure from customers "and because we want to get involved in the maintenance of ODF." The decision might seem a curious one given the effort Microsoft spent on pushing its OOXML through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), but the company said the changes OOXML had gone through in the ratification process ended up making it more difficult to support than ODF.
Holding true to its word, Microsoft has published documentation detailing its implementation of ODF version 1.1 In Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 scheduled for release in 2009. Microsoft also said similar notes about its implementation of Open XML are forthcoming.
“By publishing notes on how we are implementing file format standards in Microsoft Office, we are providing detail that others can use as a reference point for their own applications,” said Doug Mahugh, senior project manager for Office interoperability. “We encourage other companies to take similar steps to help achieve greater interoperability across the industry.”
But before Microsoft and the Open Standards community gathers around the virtual campfire and sings Kumbaya, TGDaily warns that a small number of caveats leaves the door open for Microsoft to introduce Microsoft-specific variations to the ODF standard.
Open Office has been around in one form or another for over nine years now. But the once little known productivity suite known back then as StarOffice has evolved considerably over the years. Today the Sun Microsystems freebee is admittedly a fairly full featured alternative to Microsoft Office. Open Office in fact has become so useful that Maximum PC Editor and Chief Will Smith has admitted its open source charm (and free price tag) has finally won over his home PC for casual word processing. Fans of the platform have another reason to get excited these days with the impending launch of version 3.0. The new version will further improve compatibility when working with Microsoft Office files and will include additional support for the open file format OpenDocument which is to be integrated into Office 2007. For those looking to give version 3 a try, a public beta is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac. But for corporate users looking to implement Open Office you should follow the links instead to the version named StarOffice. The retail version will cost you about $69.95, but it includes technical support and intellectual property indemnification. For those keeping track Open Office 2 launched on October 20th 2005 and the latest stable version is 2.4.1 which was released in June.