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Seattle P-I vs Microsoft

June 17th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

In response to Steve Ballmer’s prognostication that newspapers will be dead in less than 10 years, Bill Virgin of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer counters with a prediction that Microsoft will be dead in 10 years.

Ballmer’s original statement was: “There will be no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network,” Steve Ballmer told The Washington Post. “There will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form. Everything gets delivered in an electronic form.”

Bill Virgin finds such sweeping statements tiresome, and strikes back, writing “A far more compelling and convincing business case can be built to support the view that Microsoft will be kaput in 10 years than to expect the extinction of the American newspaper in a decade.”

He elaborates: “Even the core business could wind up being a bit shaky. Windows still dominates in personal-computer operating systems, but even Microsoft isn’t thrilled with Vista; Apple is slowly moving from a few niches to greater acceptance in the corporate world and Linux or something similar could grab more market share.” And their forays into other businesses have been mostly unsuccessful, requiring significant subsidies to continue operating.

In short, it seems more and more likely that Microsoft’s influence will wane and perhaps even disappear, so Bill Virgin’s prediction isn’t all that crazy at all. And he doesn’t even mention OpenOffice or OpenDocument Format, and their emancipating effects on the industry!

Collanos Workplace

April 23rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Collanos Workplace is a really interesting peer-to-peer application for creating ad-hoc project workspaces to store files, notes and other shared data. You can invite other users into your workspaces and maintain a common repository of documents.

Collanos is built on the Eclipse Rich Client Platform and is thus inherently cross-platform, like most teams today. Apple even featured Collanos in its list of OS X applications yesterday.

Sad to say, Collanos is not open source, but it is free of charge and promises to remain so forever.

Dimdim Public Beta Starts Today

April 10th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Dimdim (maybe not the best name, but it is memorable) has announced its public beta today. Dimdim is a free, GPL-licensed web meeting software/service that offers screen sharing, slideshow broadcasting, text and voice chat, and video broadcasting capabilities.

From an email they sent to private beta testers yesterday, “Since we launched our private beta program in September, Dimdim has been used in 165 countries by over 350,000 people. And thanks to your feedback we have upgraded our service to provide better screen sharing, dramatically enhanced our video and audio chat and introduced the MyDimdim meeting portal where you can host, schedule and search your meetings.

“We thought you would like to know that tomorrow, April 10, we will open our Dimdim public beta to the rest of the world. Now anyone will be able to host their own Dimdim Web Meetings for free.”

Web Worker Daily reviewed Dimdim last week and was impressed: “While he was on a PC using Internet Explorer and I was on a Mac using Firefox, as soon as I clicked the attend link in his email, it just worked. Fast. No fuss, no muss. None of the death by lag or weird color shifts I’ve been tormented with by other web collaboration services. DimDim takes care of the plumbing so you can actually spend your time collaborating, or reviewing, or learning.”

Free conference sessions can have up to 20 attendees, while the Pro service, at $99/year, allows up to 100. And since it’s open source, it can theoretically be integrated with online learning tools like Moodle (that would be awesome for remote learning!), CMSs like Drupal, and other collaborative online tools.


March 31st, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Slashdot discusses the status of the MSOOXML ballot, and, unfortunately, the proposal may actually pass. Votes are to be revealed today, so we cannot be wholly sure of the outcome, but it looks bad. Irregularities, questionable tricks and strong-arm tactics have been alleged in a number of countries (hence Slashdot’s title for the story, “OOXML Will Pass Amid Massive Irregularities”).

The longterm damage to the ISO is hard to gauge–will it come to be seen as a mouthpiece for the company with the most cash and the least scruples?

The harm to companies that try to use MSOOXML, and to the marketplace in general, is sure to be large and tangled. MSOOXML could represent a decade of cleanup work, if its adoption becomes common in the software market (though I still have some hope that, even as a rubber-stamped ISO “standard,” it won’t be popular among users).

We await further news…

Update: Groklaw is keeping track of the controversy and countries with voting irregularities including:

Google Apps Growing Fast

March 3rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Joe Panettieri, of Seeking Alpha, writes “Is Google Apps the Next Microsoft Office?

He sees universities adopting Gmail as their hosted email platform, Google Talk for instant messaging, and now, Google Docs is beginning to gain traction among students and faculty as well.

“Over the past year, Google’s Gmail has become Hofstra’s mainstay email platform for students and alumni. On average, according to Juckiewicz, roughly 8,700 students out of 13,000 students regularly use the Google Apps system. While Google Docs is beginning to gain traction across Hofstra, students are also using Google Talk for live chat and instant messaging and Google Calendar to share class schedules.”

Panettieri sees Google Apps threatening the Microsoft Office juggernaut in a few years. It will chip away that application’s dominance from below, taking away the simpler jobs–but also defining and dominating a new market, for intensely collaborative needs that span small teams across the planet.

“Assuming the offline capabilities arrive this year and work as advertised, Google Apps will become at least a partial replacement to Microsoft Office over the next two to four years, predicts a Texas college CIO, who requested anonymity.”

More News on Lotus Symphony

January 23rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Lotus Symphony, IBM’s new derivative of OpenOffice built on Eclipse technology and first released as a beta in September, has been updated with support for 24 languages.

The press release announces: “Downloaded for use in English by more than 400,000 individuals at work and at home, IBM’s Lotus Symphony suite ( of desktop office software is now available in 24 languages serving major markets worldwide.”

For a beta that’s only 4 months old, these are impressive download numbers. I expect that Symphony, with its native use of ODF, will help to grow the overall market of ODF-capable applications more than it will cannibalize OOo’s marketshare. (I believe Symphony is not open source, so many users will want to stick with OOo. But Symphony is free of cost, and has a very attractive UI, which will entice many others to adopt it.)

Not only is Symphony designed for a global market, but it’s also engineered as a global product: “IBM has employed innovative development techniques in the development and translation of Lotus Symphony. Lotus Symphony was developed by a global network of IBM laboratories led by a core team in Beijing, China using agile development techniques that allow work to continue seamlessly and in parallel on components of the product at all times.”

If I were IBM, my strategy to spread Symphony now would be to leverage OEM bundling. Clearly there’s a lot of interest from end users who are downloading it, but to really impact the market, IBM should enlist their old friends at Lenovo to install Symphony on every computer they ship. Leverage that to encourage other PC makers to follow suit, and then marketshare will climb extremely fast! IBM, and all users of ODF, will benefit.

Zoho’s Gears

November 26th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

This morning, Zoho’s offline editing capabilities received a boost, with the ability to edit, not just view, documents while offline.

Arvind wrote to inform me of this new feature:

“We announced the Zoho Writer – Google Gears integration a few weeks back. The first cut had offline viewing facility alone. And now, we are ready with the offline editing capability too as promised… You can test drive the new feature at

“A brief video demo of it here:

The Zoho suite continues to get more powerful and capable all the time.

Marketshare Memes

October 12th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

It’s considered common knowledge that Microsoft Office controls 95% of the global office suite market, but this number comes from an obsolete market analysis framework and can no longer be considered accurate.

Building on this assumption without questioning it, the W.P. Carey School of Arizona State University writes “To Pay or Not To Pay: The World of Office Suites Opens Up.” The first paragraph begins,

“The ubiquitous Microsoft Office suite claims an impressive 95 percent market share. The software giant’s business division, which includes Office, brings in annual revenues of $16.4 billion. Yet since 2000, a free suite of software that includes spreadsheet and word processing programs similar to Excel and Word has evolved, with potential to chip away at Microsoft’s market dominance. Created by an army of volunteers, the open source has attracted a lot of attention but still claims a small percentage of the market.”

A few weeks ago, their sibling site at the Wharton School provided a few key words that clarify the whole situation.

Wharton’s analysis reveals the fallacy that 95% of users (PC users or office software users, pick one market) use Microsoft Office. Instead, the oft-quoted number simply measures that 95% of the revenue collected for the sale of office suites goes to MS (according to International Data Corp.). Thus, free products including and Google Docs are not measured by this statistic at all!

If you measure marketshare as the number of computers with the software installed, as a percentage of all computers, then Microsoft has far less than 95% and OOo has a good slice: Microsoft claims to have about 400 million MSO users, and some estimates place OOo users at 100 million. With these simple numbers, MS has 80% marketshare and OpenOffice has 20% (obviously excluding other players and overlap; these numbers could be refined).

When potential users see that MS has 80% marketshare and OOo has 20%, it will be clear to people that MS is vulnerable and competitors are growing strongly and quickly. This will accelerate adoption of, as those who are afraid to use it because they fear it’s not widely used, will see it is in fact very popular.

More accurate measurement tells a different story than what has been propagated so far, and the entire evolution of the marketplace could change because of it.

Lotus Notes 8 Review

September 12th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Lotus Notes 8 has become very interesting to me now that it includes code and the ability to create ODF files!

From a strategic standpoint, IBM really had to do this–Microsoft has been using its power in the office suite market to target Lotus Notes users for switching to Exchange, so now IBM is taking the fight back to Microsoft. Lotus Notes 8 users will now receive daily reminders that they might not need MS Office afterall, since they’ve already got ODF creation tools right in front of them. And knowing that 100+ million new users can read ODF files will embolden users of KOffice, and others to share files in the ODF format, building market and mind-share for this key open file format.

In this context, Mike Heck reviews Lotus Notes 8 for InfoWorld and finds it very compelling on its own merits:

Notes 8 has a clean new look, logical menus, and customizable layouts; for me, this design makes the client easier to use compared to Microsoft Outlook… You can preview documents in a vertical pane to the right, and you can recall messages — two features that Microsoft Outlook has offered for ages. Where Notes now beats Outlook, though, is in its capability of arranging messages as a conversation thread — and these can span an entire mail file, not just your inbox. Just highlight one message and all related ones automatically become part of the thread…”

I’d love to see IBM develop a strategy to get Lotus Notes into small businesses… by offering a fully open source version of the application! I think their current clients, mostly large enterprises, would continue to purchase service agreements, so existing sales would not be cannibalized. And small businesses would jump on an open source Lotus Notes, which would be much better for them than Exchange, too tightly tied to the Windows platform as it is.

Zoho Business Arrives

September 7th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

I’ve been impressed with the Zoho online apps. They keep introducing new apps, new features, and upgrades at such a quick pace it’s hard to keep up. Now they’ve put forth a major addition to the company’s business strategy, which is a hosted suites of applications for small business customers.

“Zoho Business (ZB) is the new category we are launching and it is aimed at small & mid-sized businesses. ZB will be available in two versions – Free & Pro. Below are some of the highlights of Zoho Business.

  • Company level Admin Console
  • Domain Management (for pointing your domains to Zoho Apps)
  • Centralized User and Group Management
  • Single Sign-on across several Zoho Apps
  • Zoho Apps include Writer, Sheet, Show, Wiki, Notebook, Email, Cal, Tasks, Planner, Viewer, Chat etc.
  • Customization Options
  • Multiple levels of Security including SSL
  • Remote Backup
  • Telephone Support and more.
  • ZB will be available in Private Beta now and it’ll step into Public Beta next month. We are aiming for the GA release during the first quarter for next year. The pricing for ZB (while not finalized) will be around $40/user/year.”

See the announcement notebook for more info and screenshots.