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February 12th, 2013

FOSS’s Response to Office Rumor


Depending on who you talk to, Microsoft may or may not port their Office productivity suite to Linux. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at ZDNet seems to be the biggest naysayer at the moment. You can count me in his camp. He’s right; at present we don’t represent a big enough potential market for the Redmond folks to entertain any thoughts of putting high dollar coders to work doing the porting work. I’m sure the Microsoft bean counters would estimate it would take decades for them to earn their investment back. For that reason alone, it ain’t going to happen.

But the big story here is that this isn’t the big story here.

The big story is in how we, the FOSS community, have reacted to this rumor in a way that shows how much we’ve grown and matured in the last four or five years. We’ve reacted to this rumor like responsible grown-ups and I, for one, feel like a proud parent.


Four or five years ago, if a blog or two had whispered, “Pssst, hey–Microsoft is thinking of releasing a Linux port of Office,” the FOSS blogosphere would have lit-up so brightly that it could be seen from the International Space Station. Man, it would’ve been a crazy week. People would be writing about how suspicious they were, or happy, or sad, or filled with feelings of doom. Some would’ve said it means nothing until Adobe signs on with Photoshop. Others would’ve cussed and said “we don’t need no stinkin’ Microsoft Office.” Lots of us would have been warning folks to stay focused on our FOSS roots, our belief that software should be free, while pointing out that even Microsoft is welcome to offer their goods on Linux for any price they want to charge.

Back then, if a rumor had started this afternoon about Redmond putting Office on Linux, by now you wouldn’t be able to find a single FOSS focused site that hadn’t weighed-in on the subject. Today, other than Vaughan-Nichols article on ZDNet, I’ve seen only two other articles, both of which basically said, “Ho-hum. That’s nice. Microsoft who?” I’m sure there were more, there had to be, but I only saw the three.

Good for us. We’re not scared of them anymore. Hating them and fearing them is no longer our obsession. Nor is seeking their approval, which I suspect was also desired by some. We’ve grown up and matured. We work to advance the cause of well designed free software, while no longer being distracted by what our “enemies” think of us or plan for us. Indeed, we may be coming to realize that we have no enemies, only people who don’t like us, mainly because they don’t understand us–which can be rectified.

And if the rumor turns out to be true after all, and Ballmer & Company is planning to offer-up a version of Office that plays well with Tux, we can be big enough to wish them well with that endeavor, even while we’re wondering, as we always do, why someone would pay for Office when they can have LibreOffice or Calligra for free.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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2 comments to FOSS’s Response to Office Rumor

  • Rob

    As Linux has around 10% of the corporate desktop, I’d say that was plenty big enough for MS to think about it. That share will get [much] bigger and I bet that the biggest percentage of fools, errrr, users who buy MS Office are in the corporate sector.

  • […] FOSS’s Response to Office Rumor Depending on who you talk to, Microsoft may or may not port their Office productivity suite to Linux. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at ZDNet seems to be the biggest naysayer at the moment. You can count me in his camp. He’s right; at present we don’t represent a big enough potential market for the Redmond folks to entertain any thoughts of putting high dollar coders to work doing the porting work. I’m sure the Microsoft bean counters would estimate it would take decades for them to earn their investment back. For that reason alone, it ain’t going to happen. […]