Thursday, April 30, 2009 5:08 PM
Oracle owns an Office Suite, so now what?
One of the big advantages that SharePoint has is that it’s tightly integrated with Microsoft’s Office suite. This is something that some vendors (like Alfresco and us with Vizit Scan to SharePoint) have recognized and have worked to implement the same APIs that SharePoint does to integrate with Office.
Oracle now controls the #2 and #3 products best able to understand the internals of MS Office file formats (#1 is, of course, Office itself). In my opinion, Open Office is #2, and Oracle’s Outside In has a great reputation and is powering a lot of ISV products (and presumably their own). Even though the Office specs are now open, they are extremely complicated and we’re not likely to see a lot of new products that are built around them soon – it’s more likely that OO and Outside In will use them to get better, though, and both teams could conceivably learn from each other.
In addition to having this competency strengthened, Oracle now owns a full-blown office suite, which I’d say is the 2nd best out there (iWork is up there, but doesn’t have real word processing), and it does a great job of reading MS Office formats (and many others).
How could they take it to another level to compete with Microsoft? Probably they can’t, but here are some ideas:
- Integrate it with SharePoint using those same APIs that Alfresco and Atalasoft are using. I tried to replace Visio, but this one feature is the reason I can’t adopt anything else. That’s the same with Open Office – no company using SharePoint can adopt it.
- If they ever get some kind of beachhead with Open Office, perhaps use that to drive people to Oracle’s Universal Content Management – they’d probably have the best chance if it were a SaaS model – Another thing they get with Sun is a deploy-time story that means they should be able to deliver a great service – I said before that Sun needs to exploit this knowledge with a SaaS offering – Oracle has a whole suite of enterprise applications that could benefit from Sun’s expertise at deploy-time.
- Of course, they could still do #2 without Open Office (and should) – if they do, they need to integrate with MS Office anyway. They could use their knowledge of Office formats to make it possible deal with Office formats on the server, and not even need an Office install for some use cases.
- Obviously, they need to push for more wide adoption of Open Office document standards over Microsoft’s – not so easy, but they have some advantages over Sun.
- They need to close their UI gap with Microsoft – Sun doesn’t help here – they are just as bad. I don’t have any suggestions except for crazy ones (acquire Apple or Adobe) – if they want any chance to compete on the desktop, they need some user experience help. This extends to web interfaces – SharePoint is getting a lot of praise from end-users and powers 5 of the top 10 intranets. Most ECM vendors (including Oracle) are conceding the desktop to Microsoft and trying to figure how to power the backend of SharePoint – that’s a big mistake. Microsoft knows how to turn a desktop advantage into a server one – nothing Oracle could do to make SharePoint better won’t be replaced by Microsoft (or a partner) at some point.