About three weeks back I had the opportunity to re-connect with Projity's Marc O'Brien about the recent developments surrounding OpenProj. To paraphrase the announcement, the open source project management software had been downloaded 175,000 times in its first three months of availability. I'll steer clear of a technological view of OpenProj since I wrote up a product review last time around following speaking to Marc for the first time, soon after the first beta release. A talk in which he explained why he felt comfortable setting the bar for OpenProj as high as he did from jump street (Marc went on record saying he eventually expected 7-11 million users). While his logic was sound:
- Microsoft notes that 7% of all Office desktops run Project.
- There are over 100 million users of OpenOffice.org alone, according to Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz. Giving a 7 million user count in the OpenOffice.org community alone.
The projection wasn't taken seriously by everyone despite numerous factors working in the projects favor. Namely, the $1,000 price tag for Microsoft Project and its separation from the Microsoft Office Suite. What I won't do here is attempt to delve into how many users OpenProj will eventually have based on the number of downloads thus far. However, my perspective is that the entire office productivity landscape has reached an inflection point that is ripe for an extended period of disruption. One where OpenProj, among many others, will undoubtedly play a key role.
Below are some of the directions that I expect to play into office productivity software trends for 2008 and beyond:
Enterprises expect innovation leadership from Microsoft. With a vice grip on the desktop productivity market leveraged by control of the dominant operating system, Windows, Microsoft has reached a point where customers and partners have come to expect nothing less than for the company to be an innovation leader. This means that simply churning out new versions of and fixes to entrenched productivity applications is no longer sufficient, the company must remain focused on meeting changing user needs and the expectation to deliver office productivity software innovation.
Open Document Format/OpenXML debate won't drive decision making. While the Open Document Format and Open XML debate has received its fair share of media and press coverage, standards support alone isn't going to spur changes in office productivity decisions alone. Even if enterprises are watching these developments in light of their document longevity concerns.
Google leads a pack of burgeoning long-term threats to Microsoft's Office dominance. There is a growing segment of interest in the adoption curve for Google Docs as a reference point for the readiness of Microsoft Office alternatives. Admittedly, I'll cast my lot there, too, but more importantly it's going to be interesting to see how Projity's role develops here. Obviously, adding OpenProj to a mix that involves OpenOffice.org strengthens the prospect of there being a feature complete set of open source components that further rivals Microsoft Office. However, Projity ’s business model is structured around upselling from OpenProj to its for-pay, Web-based, Project-ON-Demand SaaS product. So assuming Google Docs continues to gain momentum on the consumer front and OpenProj leads to a pick up of Project-ON-Demand purchases, it is very realistic that as early as mid-2009, Microsoft finds itself in an unenviable predicament. One where the company faces mounting pressure on the desktop front from open source players, i.e. OpenOffice.org and OpenProj, as well as from a class of increasingly relevant online office-type offerings from the Googles, Projitys and Zohos of the world.
IBM looks to broaden its reach with Lotus/Domino 8. I thought IBM's move to release Lotus Symphony for free was both timely and a saavy competitive play. Especially since I thought that "legacy" Lotus Notes versions suffered from a lack of relevance within the consumer realm. Until Symphony IBM never gave itself a fair shot at establishing traction with users at home and students before entering he workforce. Ironically, in my mind, the company's narrow focus on the enterprise actually hurt adoption levels since it artificially limited the avenues to stimulating user familiarity with the product suite. Offering free, enterprise grade software is a good start towards convincing more IT organizations to encourage employee experimentation and adoption of unfamiliar tools.
OpenOffice.org benefits from the emergence of Linux on the desktop. This one is pretty self-explanatory, with more consumers than every catching on to Linux there is more opportunity for the best freely available office suite to capture more traction. Yet I still don't see large levels of mainstream growth in its future over the next 12 to 18 months.
Innovation and user productivity emerge as competitive differentiators. The winners in this segment will have to innovate, cost alone won't cut it. The innovative offerings will be those that introduce new wrinkles to improving productivity levels at home, in the office and on the road.