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Can LibreOffice successfully compete with Microsoft Office?

Paul Rubens | June 26, 2015
It's hard to imagine an open source project more likely to fail than one that attempts to go toe-to-toe with Microsoft's Office productivity suite.

"We have made big progress on this front, and our Coverity score is in the range of bugs per million, fewer than most open source projects," says Meeks.  (The average Coverity score for open source projects is 0.59 bugs per 1,000 lines of code, suggesting that LibreOffice is unusually bug-free.)

Watch out, Office 365

Perhaps the biggest problem for LibreOffice is that it may have missed the boat with its open source productivity software. That's because the focus for office software is shifting to the cloud: Microsoft is promoting Office 365, its cloud-based productivity suite, and it also offers a cut-down Microsoft Office Online for free. Other cloud-based alternatives include Google Docs, ThinkFree and Zoho.

Recognizing that the cloud is likely to be an important battleground in the fight for users, Collabora and IceWarp a groupware developer based in Vermont have announced plans to jointly develop Web-based document editing technology and contribute these to the LibreOffice community. The idea is that this technology will then be used as the basis of a new service called LibreOffice Online.

"By the end of this year, our offering will be a replacement for Office 365," predicts Meeks. "Where there's an expectation that it should do XYZ we will have to follow that," he adds, implying that LibreOffice Online will closely resemble Office 365. The Document Foundation will host the service Meeks expects this to be lower cost than Office 365 and the server component will also be available free for companies to host themselves.

If and when LibreOffice Online actually appears is uncertain, although having some sort of cloud offering may be crucial if LibreOffice is to remain relevant. But even if LibreOffice Online is launched successfully, the question of whether the Document Foundation will have sufficient infrastructure to enable the online service to compete with the huge resources of Microsoft and Google in the cloud remains to be answered.


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