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Debating Microsoft's comments on the Greek Ministry of Education laptops program (polytechnitis.blogspot.gr)
34 points by jtsagata 1810 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 25 comments

Even being a Linux fan boy, I still hate OpenOffice/Libre because it's so clunky and doesn't play as nice as MS Office when you need to do some complicated things for the workplace. I actually even prefer Google docs now over OpenOffice and find the gmail/Drive integration so handy. As for the Greece thing, MS has a good product (Office), but a bad OS (for the money they charge). They need to approach this differently, like porting Office to Linux.

Open/LibreOffice has never been that great and if I were considering a big install of it the fact that it's under Apache stewardship would give me pause. Apache does very good work but their specialty is server-side, highly-configurable, large systems that take a fair amount of skill to get up and running.

If I had to guess what direction OO development is headed in, I'd say things are headed in a more service-oriented architecture direction. It'll be great if you want a customed-out integrated groupware, collaboration, data analysis and document management solution, and you've got a large, skilled IT staff (and/or Oracle or IBM service contract) to set it up. I doubt it's going to be any good for standalone plain vanilla desktop apps.

Could be I'm wrong about this; but it's open to question where this is headed.

LibreOffice is not Apache Licensed or driven by Apache. It is a fork lead by "The Document Foundation". You can read http://www.documentfoundation.org/.

I personally prefer AbiWord because of the startup time, but it failed to display Word document vector graphics at all. Open/LibreOffice did not display them correctly at first, but displayed them better in later versions. Later I managed to get some Windows systems to convert the docs to PDF so that I could read them on Linux.

I am very grateful for the work that has been put into open-source office software, and know that they face an uphill battle with the peculiarities of Microsoft's formats.

Microsoft Office is a superior experience to its OpenSource competitors, and definitely worth the cost.

However OpenOffice & LibreOffice (and possibly Google Docs) are functionality equivalent, and use open source standards. This raises the biggest question with OpenSource products: is the poor experience worth no vendor lock in?

Given Greek austerity mesures, compatibility assurance, the educational use of the product, and it will force MS to compete it's best Greece uses OpenSource.

MS Office file type import is one area where LibreOffice has been making major strides recently. The latest version, and 4.0 which is coming soon has greatly improved support.

It's nice to actually see it quickly improving now they've forked, given how stagnant Open Office development was when Sun (and then Oracle) was in charge.

MS is not a newcomer to pushing their solutions to schools through government channels. It's their way to prevent people from learning about alternatives. Corruption is all around in these schemes.

What a load of crap. Grow up people. Microsoft Office is worth every single cent.

That's your opinion on the pricing of MS Office and its commercial value - correct or otherwise. However, I think the question is whether it makes sense to mandate its use in the education system, in several years time, given the rapidly changing commercial realities and - good value for businesses or not - the high price of using Microsoft products in such an environment by a government that is virtually bankrupt.

You may or may not be right on the value of MS Office, but I think its use in this context is easily and legitimately challenged.

"Rapidly changing commercial realities" haven't produced a tool as useful or flexible for analyzing large amounts of financial data as Excel. They also haven't produced an alternative word processor that can correctly read and format any arbitrary Word document. Go ahead, try and tell your boss that you never read that important memo he sent out because your office suite mangled the document.

For interacting with the business world, Microsoft Office is absolutely essential -- a bargain at thrice the price.

In many ways, Excel is too flexible and yet not flexible enough for data processing: it temptingly allows people to do some analysis but can very easily build up into a crufty mess of unreadable in-cell formulas and VB macros.

Often a database, JSON or just plain CSV files, combined with R or Python+libraries, will give a far far better result (faster, maintainable, more flexible presentation, reusable, VCS-able).

Excel is completely terrible but it puts real analytic power in the hands of non-technical people. For most business organizations, Excel alone is worth the price of Office, even if only a couple of accountants or marketing people use its power features.

Better to solve the right problem the wrong way.

Come to think about it, "too flexible and yet not flexible enough" describes all the popular scripting languages, too - Python not least among them.

Someone isn't using MS Office apparently. I've seen more incompatibilities between various versions of MS Word than between LibreOffice and any version of MS Word.

This might be true for YOUR use case and company. We are talking about Greek high-schools, which use like 1% of the capabilities of Excel,Word or even LibreOffice's calc and writer. So IMHO this point is moot.

If nothing else I would prefer Greek students get used to the emphasis writer places on using styles instead of "ad-hoc" formatting.

You need to start changes somewhere. It's not absolutely essential - it's what MS wants you to think. Think different.

I've never seen an office application that so badly mangles a Word document that you can't even read it. 100% fidelity is not going to happen, but unless you're designing brochures or things for print, you don't need 100% fidelity.

I've never seen an office application that so badly mangles a Word document that you can't even read it.

Back in a former job, I was managing documents for a big project. The government mandated the use of Word format. When I opened some of the documents up in LibreOffice, only a single, completely blank page was visible. This tended to happen with .docx files but not with .doc files.

So YES, open source office suites DO mangle Microsoft Office documents beyond readability. The only thing that's guaranteed to work is Microsoft Office, so governments and businesses will keep using it.

If you're designing something for print, you shouldn't be using Office...

I'm not sure if you were trying to make this point or not, but the vendor lock-in that MS gets from education must be massive: millions of students grow up using only MS software, it's what they get used to and practiced in, so they stick with it forever.

You should grow up. Greece is in the midst of an economic crisis. Even if MS Office does worth its price (I disagree), Greece has to do everything it can to lower its operating expenses.

The equivalent to your argument, is a person making 20,000€/year, asking for a small family car and you suggest a Porsche because "it worths every single cent".

No, it doesn't. Especially for schools - it's a pointless waste of money and sneaky tactic by MS to hook students on their products early on. Schools should ditch MS and adopt open source solutions for the sake of the future generations.

Of course Microsoft software is worth every cent (dollars many of them) that Microsoft thinks it is, the question here is, 'Is public debate of Microsoft's sales to the schools of Greece up for public debate?'.

Microsoft certainly wants to be a sole supplier on a privately discussed contract. If I were trying to maximize my profits, I'd want exactly the same.

Hmm, there's a mixture of interesting and fairly mundane stuff in here. On the mundane side: one of the points is that Microsoft objects to the requirement to procure the lowest-price software that meets the specs, because there is FOSS that meets many of the specs (as written) and it's no-cost, therefore no commercial supplier can possibly compete. That's an argument you'd expect any commercial software supplier to make, and in fact they do make that argument pretty much anywhere those kinds of procurement rules come up. Whether making that argument is trying to fleece the government or not probably depends on whether you agree with commercial software providers' arguments about benefits of their software vs. FOSS, e.g. in functionality and/or total cost of ownership.

If a competitor offers a product/price pairing that the consumer likes more than your product/price pairing, then you competetor makes the sale. If MS cannot compete on price, they need to compete on quality.

I think the relative merits of Microsoft Office vs. other solutions is something that's been hashed out many, many times. But I do find interesting the request on Microsoft's part for a face-to-face meeting. They don't specifically say a "private" face-to-face meeting, but that seems implied.

Presumably if they want to give discounts or special deals they don't want to do it publicly where everybody (including competitors and future potential customers) can see, but I wonder if this sort of tactic is something that's even tenable going forward? With so many of these contracts coming into the open, will they be able to continue giving discounts on a customer-by-customer basis?

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