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Oracle Plans To Take on Microsoft Office

With its acquisition of Sun Microsystems complete, Oracle intends to go after Microsoft's lucrative Office franchise, the company revealed yesterday. While Oracle had been quiet about its intentions for supporting Sun OpenOffice, the company disclosed plans for a forthcoming upgrade called Oracle Cloud Office during a five-hour briefing at its Redwood Shores, Calif. headquarters.

Cloud Office will support the Open Document Format (ODF) and will offer Web-based creation of documents, spreadsheets and presentations and will link to the Oracle Collaboration Suite. The company did not say when it will release Cloud Office.

"We're going to focus on enterprise customers," said Edward Screven, Oracle's chief corporate architect, speaking at yesterday's briefing. "We're going to build integrations between business intelligence and OpenOffice [and] between our content management solutions."

OpenOffice is Sun's standards-based office productivity suite and will be managed as an independent business unit, where Oracle will retain Sun's development staff and support teams. "We're going to continue to develop promote and support OpenOffice, including the OpenOffice.org community edition, he said.

Cloud Office potentially could represent a formidable challenge to Microsoft as it gets ready in the next quarter to release Office 2010. "A company with Oracle's money and clout behind it will make it interesting to watch," said Burton Group analyst Gary Creese.

"Though Sun has long supported OpenOffice, it has always somewhat struggled. Oracle has a much larger footprint, if they choose to they could probably drive a lot more customers to this new offering, but I think the jury is still absolutely out on how all these new competitors to Office will fare."

Web-based creation, editing and sharing of files is a key feature Microsoft is touting for Office 2010. That feature is a central attraction of Google Apps. IBM's Lotus group last week at Lotusphere said its Symphony suite will support Web clients this summer.

Still Creese said many enterprises remain reluctant to move away from Office for two primary reasons: concern about the sharing of file formats and a richer set of features. Nevertheless, many organizations that remain committed to Office aren't ruling out lower cost alternatives for users who don't require the high-end features in Office. "Some organizations are looking at segmenting some users who could suffice with less expensive alternatives," he said.

One area where Office 2010 will have particular appeal is in shops that intend to migrate to SharePoint 2010, Creese added. "Office 2010 is very much built as a front-end to SharePoint 2010," he said. "For others, the reason for upgrading is less compelling." However for those with Office 2003 and are faced with having to upgrade, it would make sense to move to Office 2010, he added.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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