It Starts: ORCL Charges $90 For ODF Plugin

Tuesday, 2010-April-20 at 22:09 2 comments

There were many people who felt that Oracle’s Sun purchase would negatively affect OpenOffice.org and other open source and zero-price software products that Sun had made available. Others counseled patience, saying that we should not jump to conclusions. I agreed, although Oracle’s reputation preceded it.

So I was surprised yesterday to hear that the Sun/Oracle ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office was going paid. Now, you have to remember that the justification for the plugin has always been that there are some individuals and companies that are committed to Microsoft’s office products (as irritating and user-unfriendly as it is), but wanted to be able to receive and send ODF file formats. The plugin was an easy way to taste what was available outside of the msoffice world, a loss-leader that should lead to higher uptake of OpenOffice.org and StarOffice (soon to be rebranded Oracle Office, I’m sure).

Surely, I thought, someone at Oracle just isn’t understanding the use case for the plugin. At $90, there is zero chance I’m going to convince my friends and family members to give it a try, which means those individuals will continue to look at OpenOffice.org with the same suspicion they hold for ersatz “office” software such as Microsoft Works, the ThinkFree online office product, or that $30 office suite for sale at the local office products store. At $90, someone in a business will need to go through a formal request process to obtain this plugin. But that was before I really read the site.

This morning, I learned that the minimum quantity is 100 units at $90 apiece, and that there was an annual support fee on top of it (currently $19.80). Now, I would imagine that ORCL sales is going to pitch this to their corporate customers, and they didn’t want a zero-price version chewing away at their market from underneath. I also imagine that Oracle already realizes that the manager drones that decide such things are not going to agree to buy a plugin from Oracle for Microsoft office.

It seems entirely likely that this will allow ORCL to say “We gave it a fair shot, but there’s just no demand for it.” With that, Oracle could abandon the ODF-translation field, leaving it to the Microsoft-sponsored Clever Age plugins project and the not-so-interoperable built-in functionality in recent updates to MS Office.

As an aside, is it likely that something like this is coming to MySQL soon?

What does this say for the OpenOffice.org project? Obviously, no one knows yet. At least, no one outside of Oracle knows.

Entry filed under: ODF. Tags: .

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