Sun’s ODF Plugin: Registration Now Required

Monday, 2009-April-27 at 21:34

I realize that the folks at Sun have more to worry about than this, with their pending sale to Oracle going on. I have been meaning to mention this for some time.

For those who have already invested in the Microsoft Office suite, the current best option for importing and exporting ODF files is Sun’s ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office. When the plugin was upgraded to version 3.0, however, the download process now requires registration.

The problem with that? Everyone has unintentionally been added to some marketing list in the past through just such a register to download or register to get information page. People have been trained by misbehaving marketers to shy away from “register for a free download” sites.

Personally, I have (or had) a Sun user profile. Even so, I still will not log in to access the plugin. They can know who I am by my IP address. They do not need me to log in so they can figure out who I am. (I’m the guy who sat in Wendy’s, using their WiFi. Sun webmaster, if you see the IP address belonging to that Wendy’s location, it was me. Which Wendy’s location? Well, you’ll just have to guess.)

It isn’t just Sun that has this going on. I have a new project at home, so I was going to use it as an excuse to familiarize myself with a different database, so I went to download Ingres and MaxDB, running into the same situation with each. (Well, similar. I have a username and password with Ingres, but none with SAP, the developers of MaxDB.) In each case, someone’s sage marketing advice (probably along the lines of “don’t miss the chance to reach out and touch people who are already interested in what you have to offer“) is pushing away potential users and maybe even customers of their product.

I realize that Office 2007 SP2 is only about a month away, but for those who are still using Office 2003, Sun’s plugin will remain the best option to integrate ODF into the workflow. Clever Age’s add-in is too limited in what files it can open and the part of the standard it implements. When I tested it, it was forever giving me error messages about being unable to open a particular file.

What should Sun do? I think a few changes are in order:

  1. Stop allowing marketing-driven data-collection to get in the way of getting the company’s products out to the public. Specifically, drop the log in page, so that those who are interested can quickly and easily download the plugin
  2. Both on the download page and within the plugin itself (and integrated into MS Office by the plugin), make it easy to try OpenOffice.org–a single-click download. It doesn’t have to be very advertise-ish, just a little “click here to download and install the free OpenOffice.org suite that combines fluent understanding of Microsoft Office file formats with native use of the international standard ODF file formats”. And no “opt-out” checkboxes, either, as is commonly found with the JRE.
  3. Make it easy to buy StarOffice, Sun’s improved distribution of OpenOffice.org. If I have OOo, how many clicks does it take to upgrade to a commercially-supported version? If I search the Sun site, how much effort does it take to find StarOffice? Can I buy it right there, with PayPal, Google Checkout, or major credit cards? If not, can I be directed to a partner’s online store where I can buy this way?

If you have no objection, I recommend that you get the plugin now. I just have no desire to have another username and password (or to have to track down the one I already have). Nor do I wish to have an inbox full of marketing e-mails.

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