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Friday, July 30, 2010

Why no portable Office from Microsoft? OpenOffice is portable.

When .Net was introduced to the world, one of the features touted was an XCopy Deployment mode. That is one can simply copy a software suite from one location (a remote server) and drop it onto your local drive and it just works. None of these heavy weight installation program requiring administrative rights. In .Net 2, Microsoft further enhanced this with the ClickOnce deployment.

Sadly, there is still not one product from Microsoft that utilizes this XCopy deployment - this is a classic case of "Do as I preach and Not as I do". There are plenty of products from other parties that have achieved this 'XCopy Deployment' mode and they fall into a class called the Portable Applications. Notice the complete absence of any Microsoft's contribution in this area.

Just about every competitor to Microsoft has portable version: Browser - Portable Firefox, MailClient/Outlook - Portable Thunderbird, Office - Porftable OpenOffice, Messenger - several portable ones, such as Portable Pidgin, the list goes on. Even poor old Microsoft's WordPad has been made portable and enhanced but not from Microsoft.

The Portable OpenOffice is so convenient not having to install the 500lb Gorilla called Microsoft Office just to write some documents. So why Microsoft has tried to preach the features of XCopy/ClickOnce while itself refrain from using them?

Sure, the portable version does not support the Object Linking And Embedding or OLE Automation. In most cases, people do not need them. Besides there are portable applications that when installed into the hard drive can provide that kind of features. I am sure Microsoft can figure that out.

It is not a technical impediment. I think the main reason Microsoft has not dared to venture into this area is MONEY. How can you force someone to activate when it is a portable application? If Microsoft cannot force people to activate their 'portable' application, it can't force people to pay them. The only way Microsoft's money tree continues to thrive is to force the users to cement the applications deeply rooted into the machine's hard drive. To hell with users' convenience.

Back to Portable OpenOffice's (version 3.2.0) word processing module. I am extremely impressed with its capability and pound for pound matching the expensive MS Office. Sure no eye-candy of MS Office 2007 but who cares. Sure there are quirky stuff in MS Office that OpenOffice can't do but are they in the frequently used features demanded by majority users? The best part is that I do not have to install it. If I am working on a Virtual Machine and needing something to write with more capability than Wordpad, I simply operate either from a USB drive or drag the suite onto the Virtual hard drive. Not need to go through the pain of installation followed by dreaded activation which disturbs the machine's environment. Often activation will fail because it has already been activated previously!

Previously I have been rather skeptical of the performance and reliability of OpenOffice but after having spend days on it writing lengthy document recording my experiment, I am mightily impressed by it. It is free and it does not bother me with Activation. That's how software should be deployed.

If it can function with the Tablet PC's TIP (Tablet Input Panel), I will install it into my Tablet PC and ditch the 500lb gorilla.

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