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Open-Xchange takes aim at no less than Microsoft Office, Google Docs

Jon Gold | April 10, 2013
OX CEO Rafael Laguna talks format headaches and free software

Anything OX's recognition system doesn't understand -- like certain types of formulae or art formats, which tend to break compatibility with the .odt standard and Google Docs -- it simply ignores and replaces with a placeholder, says Laguna.

After changes are made to, say, a .docx file in the browser-based editor, the framework can simply "replay" the changes and update the original document seamlessly. "If I send this file to you and you're a Word user and you open it, you'll see the same stuff is still there."

OX Text was supposed to officially launch Monday, but Laguna says that minor QA issues will push the release to later in the week. There's another catch, however, for those eager to give it a whirl -- while OX doesn't charge for the use of the software itself, it also doesn't provide a consumer-facing, public cloud option, which means you'll have to host it yourself if you want to kick the tires.

"We're not a service provider; we're not Salesforce or Google, where we would set up the service directly for people," says Laguna. "Instead, we have people who know how to provide services."

"There is no good open-source license yet for the cloud application age," says Laguna. "The old ones ... don't make sense." So the back-end server code is licensed under the GPL, and the OX Text Web application uses the Creative Commons non-commercial share-alike license. Essentially, this means you can do whatever you like with the code, but if you want to sell something based on it, you have to go through OX.

The company will commercialize OX Apps by taking a cut of sales from businesses building custom versions of the software for profit, as well as selling support and services, Laguna says.

"This way, we have a very scalable business model on the one hand, but we're sort of in the same boat with [the customer]," according to Laguna. "They start making money, we make money."

OX's Apps framework is an impressive unified Web-based desktop, featuring integrated mail, address book, calendar and file management features presented with an interface that looks like a blend of Google Docs and the latest generation of MS Office programs. There's also a dedicated mobile site.

Laguna says keeping everything compatible with all the major browsers is often a headache.

"This is why I hate this recent announcement of Google's, where they said they're forking WebKit," he quips.

You can give OX Apps a try here, along with Text when it's released.


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