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Productivity Suites

One real showstopper for the ABM movement in the corporate world is the lack of any productivity suite that can match Microsoft Office 2000 or Microsoft Office XP for functionality or coverage. That said, there are plenty of individuals, organizations, and businesses that would love to get out from under the processing load, disk footprint, and upgrade fees that come with large-scale use of Microsoft Office.

In the Linux world, Sun Microsystem's StarOffice suite is making a creditable effort to match Microsoft Office. It's smaller, slower, much cheaper, and more limited in functionality, but becoming increasingly attractive to those groaning under the various burdens of the real thing. Most people I've talked to who work regularly with StarOffice still have the occasional complaint about problems or lament about missing features and functions, but it's improved support for Microsoft Office file formats and Web document handling features are starting to gain it some accolades. At $39.95 for a deluxe package with CD and complete documentation, it's less than 10 percent of the price of MS Office, too.

On the BeOS beat, gobe Software's gobe Productive is the only game in town that I could find as far as productivity suites go. Like StarOffice, it combines a totally different look and feel with support for basic Microsoft Office file types and functions. At $49.95 for the commercial version, it's not quite as cheap as StarOffice, but certainly more reasonable than Microsoft Office!

Both packages use different macro environments, offer varying support for nitty-gritty details such as style sheets and template files, and inspire general fear and loathing at having to learn another productivity environment. Thus, adopting either StarOffice or gobe Productive requires flexible, open-minded users willing to tolerate changes and climb yet another learning curve. This makes this portion of the ABM solution the toughest sell of all, in many ways.

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