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Oracle Plans to Take on Microsoft Office

Sun acquisition leaves Oracle with some components for an Oracle Cloud Office.

With its acquisition of Sun Microsystems Inc. complete, Oracle Corp. intends to go after Microsoft's lucrative Office franchise.

While Oracle had been quiet about its intentions for supporting Sun OpenOffice, the company disclosed plans for a forthcoming upgrade called Oracle Cloud Office during a five-hour briefing at its Redwood Shores, Calif., headquarters.

Cloud Office will support the Open Document Format (ODF); will offer Web-based creation of documents, spreadsheets and presentations; and will link to the Oracle Collaboration Suite. The company did not say when it will release Cloud Office.

"We're going to focus on enterprise customers," said Edward Screven, Oracle's chief corporate architect, speaking at the late January briefing. "We're going to build integrations between business intelligence and OpenOffice [and] between our content management solutions."

OpenOffice is Sun's standards-based office productivity suite and will be managed as an independent business unit, where Oracle will retain Sun's development staff and support teams. "We're going to continue to develop, promote and support OpenOffice, including the OpenOffice.org community edition," Screven said.

Cloud Office potentially could represent a formidable challenge to Microsoft, which is getting ready to release Office 2010 in the next quarter.

"A company with Oracle's money and clout behind it will make it interesting to watch," says Burton Group analyst Gary Creese. "Though Sun has long supported OpenOffice, it has always somewhat struggled. Oracle has a much larger footprint; if they choose to, they could probably drive a lot more customers to this new offering -- but I think the jury is still absolutely out on how all these new competitors to Office will fare."

Web-based creation, editing and sharing of files is a key feature Microsoft is touting for Office 2010. That feature is also a central attraction of Google Apps. The IBM Lotus group last week at Lotusphere said its Symphony suite will support Web clients by this summer.

Still, Creese says many enterprises remain reluctant to move away from Office for two primary reasons: concern about the sharing of file formats, and a reluctance to abandon Office's richer set of features. Nevertheless, many organizations that remain committed to Office aren't ruling out lower-cost alternatives for users who don't require the high-end features in Office. "Some organizations are looking at segmenting some users who could suffice with less-expensive alternatives," Creese explains.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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