Study: Despite bright, shiny rivals, good old Office still rules at work

Employees retain a solid preference for Microsoft Office over its competitors

By , IDG News Service |  Enterprise Software

In the office, people still prefer Microsoft Office.

Yes, despite threats from rivals that are open source, cheaper, fully cloud-based or more mobile-friendly, Microsoft Office's desktop suite reigns over the workplace productivity software kingdom.

That's the conclusion Forrester Research reached after recently polling 155 enterprise IT professionals with decision-making power over their company's choice of office software suites.

"Things haven't really changed," said Forrester analyst Philipp Karcher, who authored the report. "Office still has a stranglehold in this market."

While IT departments may grumble that Office has more features than most people need and that it's costly, the suite has been around so long that it owns the hearts of employees, who also use it at home for personal matters, the study found.

In that way, Office has benefitted all along from what is known today as the "consumerization of IT" trend, where people's choice of software and computing devices at home helps influence the IT tools companies offer them at work, Karcher said. Office is by far the market leader for office suites among consumers.

"People like Office. They're familiar with it at home and at work," he said. "Thus, it's hard to displace."

This despite advances in adoption of cloud email, which often comes bundled in with lightweight browser-based productivity suites, as in the case of Google Apps with Gmail and Docs, and Microsoft's own Office 365, which comes with Exchange Online and Office Web Apps.

The study found that 20 percent of surveyed companies are using cloud-based email and another 25 percent have plans to adopt it.

Currently, browser-based office suites, such as Google Docs, are mostly a complement to Office for employees who have "lightweight" needs, according to Karcher. Microsoft has responded to that use case with Office Web Apps, which offers a subset of the functionality of the full-featured desktop version.

The study also yielded surprising findings about what respondents find important about office productivity suites. Topping that list is compatibility with Microsoft Office file formats, followed by integration with the company's email system.

Also important, but not as much, are reduced license fees, compatibility with the company's existing macros and integration with its enterprise social collaboration platform.

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