More Offices Open Up

Opinion: and Firefox give organizations viable alternatives to Microsoft, while Apple shines Spotlight on desktop search.

As organizations sought ways to control IT costs in 2004, IT managers increasingly considered open-source alternatives.

Ive made various predictions about the rise of open-source software within enterprises. And while Linuxs success in the server arena has been obvious for some time now, it is open-source desktop software that (finally!) began to gain real ground within some organizations this year.

Sure, it helps that Microsoft Office alternatives let organizations loosen Microsofts grip on desktop computing. And that Office 2003 had so many new functions that users looking for basic word processing, spreadsheet and presentation capabilities faced a high probability of feeling overwhelmed.

But OpenOffice.orgs namesake suite, as I saw early this year during testing at eWEEK Corporate Partner site FN Manufacturing, is a viable candidate to replace Microsoft Office—in some areas. On manufacturing floors, for example, where users needed to access word processing and spreadsheet applications, I found did the job.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read eWEEK Labs comparison of Office 2003 and

However, more work needs to be done to in 2005 before it can evolve into a serious challenger to Office within most enterprises. A lack of compatibility with some file formats, as well as the inability for macros in some instances to display properly, will persuade no IT manager to put his or her job on the line by promoting the open-source productivity suite.

Im hoping 2.0, which is scheduled to be released in March, will resolve smaller conversion issues and provide greater compatibility with Microsoft applications.

Browser wars II

Firefox, the open-source browser from the Mozilla Foundation, also created a great stir among users and IT managers and reignited the browser wars with its release this fall. I applauded the browser as a viable contender to Microsofts Internet Explorer. And as IEs market share continues to slip, I expect IT managers will at least consider the browser in future desktop and workstation rollouts.

If anything, enterprise Web sites and applications that do not support multiple browsers are only shooting themselves in the foot.

Searches heat up

Before this year, most search technology was focused on the Internet. However, when Apple Computer threw down the gauntlet with its July announcement that the forthcoming Mac OS X 10.4, code-named Tiger, would have a new content indexing and search engine called Spotlight, some of the focus shifted to desktop search capabilities.

Google was first with a beta of its Google Desktop search application in October—an application I found useful for searching through Outlook e-mail. Then this month, Microsoft released MSN Toolbar Suite, beta software that indexes users e-mail and desktop files.

With Yahoo planning to enter the market early next year, I think the realm of desktop search will be worth watching.

On the road again

Road warriors needing highly mobile notebooks mainly for office applications were the reason Intels Centrino platform gained such popularity two years ago. Earlier this year, the chip maker released a 90-nanometer Pentium M processor code-named Dothan.

Intel is scheduled to capitalize on the Centrino platform with the release of "Sonoma" the next-generation Centrino platform, in the first quarter of next year. Sonoma will combine the Dothan processor with a new chip set—code-named Alviso—along with 802.11a/b/g wireless capability. I expect Sonoma to outpace Centrino with greater battery life and better performance.

Senior Writer Anne Chen joined eWEEK in 1999 as a writer for eWEEKs eBiz Strategies section; she joined the Labs in 2001. Anne covers desktop hardware and software, as well as standards and standards bodies. In addition to reviews, Anne writes case studies and Labs On-Sites, aka case studies on steroids. Before joining eWEEK, she covered technology for Knight Ridder newspapers.

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