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Desktop apps ripe turf for open source

Two new reports on open source validate office suite application alternatives like and StarOffice and their push into the mainstream against market giant Microsoft Office.

Two recently released reports have reinforced what open source advocates have known for years: Open source has positioned itself as a strong and fundamental commercial force.

Both reports identified office suite applications space -- desktop software, such as word processing, spreadsheets and databases -- as ripe for growth for open source.

In the world there is a blurring line between commercial and open source.
Paul Gustafson
directorLeading Edge Forum

In a report from El Segundo, Calif.-based consulting firm Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC), Microsoft dominates the office suite market, with 95% of the overall share and more than 300 million users worldwide.

However, the report notes that, an open source alternative to Microsoft Office, has secured 14% of the large enterprise office systems market, with over 16 million downloads and countless CD installations.

A second report released by Research and Markets, an international research firm based in Ireland, gets to the bottom line of one of the most appealing aspects of open source applications: cost.

"Savings of up to 25% are possible with alternatives to Microsoft Office," the report stated. "Significant savings potentials for the license and operating costs make open source programs, like OpenOffice or StarOffice, an alternative to Microsoft to be reckoned with."

StarOffice is a free productivity application suite from Sun Microsystems that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation maker and e-mail component compatible with Microsoft Office.

"In the world there is a blurring line between commercial and open source," said Paul Gustafson, the director of the Leading Edge Forum. The LEF is a program created by CSC charged with identifying various technological topics of interest and future trends in popular areas like open source.

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Gustafson said the "blurring line" has occurred as commercial providers, like IBM, have started to embrace open source with applications like WebSphere, which works with many open source titles.

"This is not just for the sake of a new low-cost-based alternative; it is [vendors] recognizing and really embracing [open source] and the role it plays in software development," Gustafson said.

While cost was one of the major factors for some of the organizations in CSC's research, Gustafson said quality and flexibility were just as important when considering open source alternatives.

Gustafson said a CSC client, Thor Pederson, the Danish Minister of Finance, believed that open source was the only way to truly achieve broader interoperability between his agency and other organizations.

"They did not have the confidence that proprietary [applications] would allow them to be interoperable with other organizations, and they did not believe in the 'thou shalt adopt' approach present in some commercial vendors," Gustafson said.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Jack Loftus, News Writer

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