MS Office 2007 or OpenOffice?

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Let's talk 80/20 rule for office productivity software. What if you could get 80 percent of everything you expect from Microsoft Office for 20 percent of the price? Would you do that? Many would, and have.

Now take one step further. What if you could get 95 percent of Microsoft Office features for zero percent of the price? In other words, how about a complete office productivity suite for free?

In case you've been under a rock, that's the deal offered by OpenOffice.org with their OpenOffice suite. Their slogan is straightforward: "Great software, easy to use, and it's free." I agree with their slogan.

Pity poor Microsoft for just a moment, because the slow uptake of Office 2007 hurts their bottom probably more than Vista sales lagging behind projections. But for 95 percent of small business users, or maybe 99 percent, Office 2003 does a great job. Same for Office 2000, and Office 97.

But the technology business has trained customers well to want the newest thing over the older thing that still works. Features do improve, new capabilites get added, and there's a bit of a snob factor for some users to be using the newest and brightest (and most expensive).

That said, most small business people I know couldn't care less what office suite they use unless it causes them problems, and won't upgrade until it makes them money somehow. So when the newest features do provide benefits, such as better mail-merge for mailing list users, they want to upgrade.

Good news is that you can upgrade to OpenOffice.org 2.4 and get a newer, shinier productivity suite than Office 2007 and spend absolutely no money doing so. Download for free, try it for free (it even runs on Vista with no problem), and see if you can eliminate or postpone the need for Office 2007 on every new computer.

If you're in a small business, don't you have better better ways to spend $300-$400 than sending it to Microsoft? If not, let me know your reasoning, and we'll start a nice debate. Any takers?

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