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Blogs > Office Jotter

Oracle Open Office goes vaporous
Roger Whitehead By: Roger Whitehead, Director, Office Futures
Published: 19th December 2010
Copyright Office Futures © 2010

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Oracle Corporation has announced a cloud-based variant of the Open Office suite it picked up when it bought Sun Microsystems in January 2010. It calls the new software Oracle Cloud Office and intends it for use from Web browsers and mobile devices. You can see a short preview on YouTube.

Cloud Office will work with current versions of the Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers. Mobile devices must run either Apple iOS or Google Android.

The company refers to the pair of products — Open Office and Cloud Office — as Oracle Office, a name that will be familiar to readers with a long memory (see Déjà vu, below). Both use the XML-based Open Document Format (ODF) version 1.2 as the basis for their files.

Features common to both products are word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database and drawing. Cloud Office adds sharing and joint viewing of documents, ‘sticky’ notes, group reviewing and remote presentations. Not all the creating and editing functions will be available from mobile devices.

Oracle is aiming the new software at telcos and ISPs as well as user organizations. Prices will vary according to the size of the installation and the hosting method. Those for Open Office are here. The prices for Cloud Office have not yet been made public, nor has Oracle said when the service will be available.

Open Office, OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice

Oracle Open Office (OOO) itself is now at version 3.3 and comes in two versions – standard and enterprise. The latter is for installations of 100 users or more. Either version will run on MS Windows (32 and 64 bit), Oracle Solaris, Linux or Macintosh OS X.

The Oracle single-user product is similar to and based on the Sun-originated open source software, OpenOffice.org (OOo), which is free. (It used to be called just OpenOffice but some other people got there first with that name.) It is already at version 3.3.

Open Office, says Oracle, is its “professional” distribution of OpenOffice.org. In return for their money, customers get some connectors, MS Office migration tools, patched upgrades (rather than complete reinstalls), 60 days’ support and other services.

A further free possibility for the desktop and laptop, just released in beta version, is LibreOffice Productivity Suite. This is a fork in the development path of OpenOffice.org, created by The Document Foundation. (Woody Leonhard tells the story of its creation.) A Webified version of LibreOffice does not appear in the published development plan.

Competitors

Cloud Office is a clear response to the established Google Apps for Business and the forthcoming Microsoft Office 365. (ZDNet UK recently tested an early version of Office 365.)

In November 2010, Google released a tranche of new options for Google Apps. It has also begun user testing of Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office. This is a plug-in for MS Office that lets users of it connect to Google’s cloud services.

The biggest supplier of cloud-based business applications for the enterprise is Salesforce.com. Although basically a CRM system, it comes with a set of social networking services called Chatter.

Chatter offers more features than Cloud Office and is free to employees of registered Salesforce users. It will also work into other Salesforce services, such as Database.com.

Although it is more than ointment (see this post), Chatter is not a general-purpose offering. You have to subscribe to one of the main Salesforce services to be able to use it. This sparky exchange on a Jive employee’s blog shows one rival’s opinion of it.

Two smaller competitors to Oracle Office are Zoho and Huddle. Both would reward investigation by anyone looking for cloud-based office applications. (Carl Potter and I included Huddle in our survey of innovation in enterprise social networking.)

IBM has supplied cloud computing infrastructure services for years but its Lotus Notes and Connections products are still primarily ‘on premises’ products. The LotusLive family, which IBM launched in January 2009, gives access to some of their functions at a fraction of the normal cost.

Those features include email, Web conferencing and collaboration. There are more tools available if there is an existing Notes or Connections installation to connect to or an existing Notes client. LotusLive is more of a sprat to catch a mackerel than a serious contender in the on-demand office tools market.

Déjà vu

There was an earlier Oracle Office, announced in September 1994. Its original name was Oracle Documents and it consisted of a ‘thin client’ to an Oracle7 database. The combination provided email, calendar and directory services to desktop computers, workstations and dumb terminals.

The 1990s’ product was for a while touted as a potential competitor to Lotus Notes. It went nowhere. Given the greater strength and quality of the competition today, the modern reincarnation of it may be headed for the same place.

Technorati tags: cloud, collaboration software, corporate software, enterprise software, Google, Huddle, LibreOffice, LotusLive, Microsoft Office 365, office software, Open Office, OpenOffice.org, Oracle, Salesforce.com, social networking, Zoho

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