Functionality trumps ideology.

German town throws up hands at Open Office, decides to go back to Microsoft Office.

A recent article in The Register -  - reports on the decision of the local council to abandon their attempted deployment of Open Office  and return to Microsoft Office. The council originally mandated the use of Open Office for political rather than pragmatic reasons. Open Source advocates pushed hard for the adoption of the software suite not because it was the best solution for the job, but because it ticked specific ideological checkboxes.

A report in IT World suggests that the deployment was a train wreck. Critical functionality wasn’t available and users ended up having to run Office 2000 in parallel with Open Office to perform common daily tasks. Rather than take the “open source” approach of fixing what users found wrong with the product – the council’s deployment hasn’t been a flash in the pan, it has been ongoing for the last 5 years – advocates appeared to be more interested in scoring political points than they are in dealing with the problems that users were encountering. At one point the choice of the Freiburg council to deploy Open Office was cheered at open source friendly news sites like Slashdot. Given that this deployment was a sort of “poster child” for the utilization of the open source office solution, you’d think that more people in the open source community would have gotten on board to ensure that it ended up working flawlessly. As it stands, when future large organizations consider using open source alternatives to Microsoft Office, the Freiburg case study will provide an additional reason not to make the jump.

Trying to regulate a specific software solution is never going to work as well as simply choosing what works best for an organization. Rather than create a product that is in most ways better than Microsoft’s offering, some groups have instead decided to become politicians and have regulated their favored product into use. In the long run ideology is only going to get software so far and products must be able to do what people need it to be able to do. Any organization that forgets this (and this applies to Microsoft as well as Apple, Google, RedHat and Canonical ) is going to find their users looking for alternatives.

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Orin Thomas is a contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and a Windows Security MVP. He has authored or coauthored more than thirty books for Microsoft Press, founded the Melbourne System Center,...
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