You have heard that Google partnered with Sun Microsystems to further develop and promote free office desktop applications, so called OpenOffice to compete against Microsoft’s Office applications (which cost anywhere from $100-$500).
But now Microsoft shot back by announcing that it will release its Microsoft Office Suite applications for free. The free version of Office will display small ads within the program. This move reminds me of Microsoft-Netscape browser wars and Opera’s move to release latest version of Opera browser for free without ads.
Though these rivalries will make desktop applications and browsers more available to all consumers, but at the end it will still hurt the consumers in many ways.
For example, if we look at the browser wars in 1990s, the web design community faced so many difficulties because Microsoft and Netscape browsers interpreted HTML tages differently which produced inconsistent designs of web pages on each browser. Web designers started to create browser hacks and develop multiple versions of their site which was a lot of headache and redundant work that resulted in inaccessible and incompatible web sites. This also left lot of site visitors with bad user experience because they had no clue why a site looked weird in their Netscape Communicator 1.0; and in some instances, web sites only allowed certain browsers to view page contents and, other browser users had to exit or convert (download the “other” browser).
Thanks to Web Standards Project and Mr. Zeldman, these problems were brought to browser makers’ attention and in the beginning of 2001 most of the browsers started to interpet HTML and CSS similiarly (almost). This effort helped to develop set standards that will be used by browser makers when they develop a browser, and web designers will be able to use these standards to make one version of their site that will be displayed the same way in all browsers.
The current desktop application rivalry might produce similar effects that could leave consumers with so many different types of office documents that are incompatible with each other. History will repeat itself once more…and we will be there to watch this craziness unfold in front of our screens.
The battle for the conquest of our desktops continues….