The Case for Switching

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Revision as of 03:55, 21 February 2006 by RealGrouchy (Talk | contribs)

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The purpose of this page is to provide a place for me (and, presumably others) to store and develop arguments for switching to, as well as rebuttals to common counter-arguments. This will serve as a necessary "training ground" for those who want to promote to their family, friends, and most importantly, the organizations that they work with and for.

This page will act as a source for such arguments. Eventually, I'd like to see it made into a video-style presentation that can be included in OOo CDs, to help convince people who are still weary of installing it.

I was hoping that something already existed, but can't find anything that is in Wiki format, which is necessary for collaboration. My personal plan is to get my university to switch, and the better prepared I am when I start, the easier it will be. Hopefully, I won't have to do it all on my own! --RealGrouchy 20:54, 19 February 2006 (CET)

The primary sources I will be using are this forum topic that I started on, and the book The Success of Open Source, by Steven Weber (which, ironically enough, is copyrighted). Feel free to add others, but remember to cite sources: not only for the legal/moral reasons, but also so that we can develop a decent bibliography.

Note that I am assuming existing use of and dependence on MS Office, and perhaps other things which I'll add.

Miscellaneous Arguments

Reliability of format


The Open Document Format is a freely-available and published format. This means that anybody can produce software that saves in this format and opens in this format. Many proprietary formats are not open, meaning that any attempt by another program to open the document is at best a shot in the dark. There's no ensuring that programs not supported by Microsoft (for example) will be able to open, display, and save Microsoft-format documents with 100% reliability.

With Open Document Format, programmers have precise specifications on how to save a document to make it look a certain way.


  • You don't have to purchase software when Microsoft stops supporting the current format (as it did with Office 95--citation needed).
  • Open formatting is akin to a free market--the consumer gets to choose which software works best for them, at the lowest price.
  • Open Document Formats mean that software will be available in the future to open your archived documents; you don't have to go digging for that ten-year-old program diskette.

Anti-Microsoft Arguments

Microsoft's marketing strategy


As a private company, Microsoft must work in its shareholders' best interests. This means ensuring that not only are its programs the standard, but also that people will have to continue purchasing software and services from Microsoft.

Microsoft has admitted(citation needed) to lowering prices in areas where its software may not be accepted at full price. Microsoft also gives free or special-rate prices to institutions such as universities, governments, and others(citation needed).

Implication: Microsoft must continuously change its software to stay profitable

Implication: Institution gets deal, its members pay full price

By using software such as Microsoft Office or Corel WordPerfect Office, the institution that gets a discount on the software creates a standard for its members (employees, students, clients, etc.). When members then get computers at home, they are not privy to the discounts that the institution gets. In some cases, "Student/Teacher" versions are available, but still at a high price(citation needed).

Counterargument: But I can get a free pirated copy

Some people say they can get a pirated copy of MS Office for "free". However, not everybody has that option, and not everybody wants to use illegal software. Use of pirated software also creates a liability for the organization (see below). Furthermore, pirated software often cannot be upgraded to protect the user's computer from security flaws (see argument on security below somewhere).

Microsoft has been tightening the security on its Windows operating system to prevent the installation of pirated software, so this may not always be an option. In fact, your computer may one day deny you access to your pirated software, and you'll be stuck. Better to avoid that risk altogether and use free software.

Implication: Potential Liability to Institution

By using Microsoft format as a standard, institutions run the risk of their employees using pirated copies of software at home to create documents for work. Currently, 40% of Microsoft Office installations are pirated(citation needed--it is MSO and not XP, right?). Although mass lawsuits would raise awareness of this issue and potentially harm Microsoft's market share, Microsoft must still ensure that its software is profitable. Therefore, there is still a risk that your organization can get sued. By instituting an Open standard for document formats, this risk is elminiated.

Counterargument: I'll be switching to a Macintosh

Guess what the most common office suite is on Macintoshes? Microsoft Office(citation needed)! Only, it's more expensive, and updated versions often come later than those for Windows(citation needed), because Microsoft wants you to also use its Windows Operating System.

(Is this correct?): Like Microsoft Office, Apple's Operating System is also closed-source, meaning that Microsoft and Apple get to play a fun little game of cat-and-mouse to ensure that MS Office will work on OSX.

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