SUN has been known to be a company that is not good at commercializing products. With Oracle, the opposite is true. When Oracle purchased SUN, I was waiting to see how Oracle commercializes SUN’s product. I know it will be interesting.
We have some small little things happening here and there, e.g., no longer shipping CDs for free. However, those are more precisely described as cost-cutting rather than commercialization.
Now we have one, and it is quite a bold one. Oracle is charging for ODF plugin for MSOffice. I am surprised by the move. We know that ODF is competing with OOXML for heart and mind of office productivity suite users. An ODF plugin for MSOffice is one of the important weapon the ODF camp has. Charging for it will reduced the number of copies of installed ODF plugin on MSOffice which is not a good move to promote a format by making it as ubiquitious as possible.
Initially I was wondering whether this means ODF is getting traction and Oracle felt that it is mature enough to sustain commercialization of MSOffice ODF plugin. My experience, however, is this is definitely not the case. In my work, I rarely encounters OOXML or ODF documents, we have a lot of old fashion .doc documents going around. For most people with MSOffice 2007, they still find problems sending .docx document. The workaround instituted is to send documents in PDF instead. In the long run, however, I think everyone will move to OOXML purely on the inertial of MSOffice and we will see a big uproar when MSOffice drops .doc finally. Will people move to ODF? I don’t know and I am not betting on it.
Then, in the reference article, one point jumped out. The ODF plugin works for older versions of MSOffice. The argument goes that people who crinched to MSOffice 2003 and below will have a modern format to extend the life of their product. Is this true? Possibly. MSOffice 2000 and 2003 is good enough for standard office documents for a considerable time to come. But does using ODF really extends the life of the product? Why would I bother to switch away from .doc?
I think the most likely reason for charging for the ODF plugin is MS Office 2007 has lousy ODF support. Presumably SUN (now Oracle) did a better job at ODF support. This makes Oracle’s ODF plugin a premium product and Oracle sees an opportunity to make money out of it. I see it like PDF support in MSOffice. You have PDF export shipped as standard in MSOffice 2007. However, I think you can buy plugins that allow you to open and edit PDF document and there is quite a lot of people who will pay good money for it.
Therefore, I think Oracle’s ODF plugin is aimed more at people who wants ODF support in Microsoft Office 2007 and above.