Friday, August 18, 2006

Microsoft for Office "inevitable" - or so says IT Week

In an article posted today,that venerable IT rag IT Week quotes OSDL's Stuart Cohen that "Microsoft will release a version of Office to run on Linux within the next couple of years.""  Cohen believes that since MS did this for Apple they'll do it for Linux. While it's a nice theory, I can't see it happening for many reasons:

1. The underlying platform is different. In writing Office, MS has leveraged the best from Windows. To port Office to Unix, MS would need to re-implement a lot of lower level code in Linux, or do some massive re-writes (leading to 2 code bases).

2. There's more than one Linux. And that means MS (or someone) do the testing and creating installers on multiple platforms: Suse, Mandrake, etc, etc, etc, etc. The more SKUs MS has to produce (and test), the more expensive it becomes.

3. Taking on a new platform is also expensive. To support such a beast, MS would have to acquire a core of Linux support skills, across the many variants of Linux that MS chooses to support.

4. People may not want to pay (enough) for it. It's all fine and well for Cohen to ask MS to invest millions of dollars to produce such a product - but would people actually pay for it? And would that total market make investment sense.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying MS won't produce such a product. But based on today's market, I'm not sure it would make good business sense. Having said that, I'd bet money that someone is sitting in Redmond and running the numbers on this near-daily. It there was a serious market, where MS could make a decent ROI, then they'd be there in a shot.

The reality is that the market probably isn't there, no matter how rose-tinted Cohen's glasses. We'll see.

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