Industry News Desk
The Newfangled Holy Grail of SaaS Has Come to OpenOffice
OpenOffice Enveloped by the Cloud
By: Maureen O'Gara
Dec. 22, 2007 09:15 PM
The newfangled Holy Grail of software-as-a-service has come to OpenOffice, the freebie challenger of Microsoft Office sent into the wild years ago by Sun Microsystems to wreak what havoc it could.
Ulteo, the outfit started by Mandrakesoft, now Mandriva, founder Gaël Duval last year after Mandriva fired him over strategic differences, has webified OpenOffice 2.3.
Its new software-as-a-service, called the Ulteo Online Desktop and days into an open beta, is supposed to make it unnecessary to install or update OpenOffice on a client PC, the first of apparently other desktop applications and data management that Ulteo intends to take into the cloud.
It is also supposed to let users collaborate, another de rigeur facility, by invitation in real-time.
Unfortunately for Ulteo, early feedback says the thing is balky and slow because of Java coupled with OpenOffice's basic limitations. And it's unclear whether sharing is really there.
Ulteo is running the service off of servers in Europe and the east coast of North America but apparently they're being somewhat overwhelmed by what Duval terms the "Slashdot effect." Ulteo, which seems to have been planning on 15,000 beta users, is talking about adding more and bigger machines.
However, until that happen it was advising would-be testers that "If it's too slow or if you cannot get an OpenOffice.org session, please just register and come back later. We will inform you when things get back to normal."
Perhaps not the best of all possible worlds for a company trying to take on Microsoft. It also can't handle any beta testers in Asia yet.
Ulteo says the data transmission between the user's browser and Ulteo's servers is encrypted but once there - in the 1GB of free storage Ulteo is offering, well, "there can be no formal guarantee," it says.
Files can reportedly also be saved on a hard drive.
Both Ulteo and OpenOffice folks remark that Ulteo could entice more people to experiment with OpenOffice since they don't have to install it now. Like OpenOffice it works on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. And training can now be done online.
It can also evangelize the Microsoft-bucking OpenDocument Forum that OpenOffice uses though people can also exchange traditional Office and PDF documents.
Ulteo eventually intends to have a paid subscription as well as a free version of its Desktop.
There are currently something like 800 projects trying to unseat Office including Google Apps, Zoho, Adobe, LiveDocument and IBM. Microsoft, in response, started beta testing its "software-plus-services" Office Live Workspace last week.
Meanwhile, Sun, looking to add a buck to its top line, has taken to supporting OpenOffice distributors with unique issues, saying it will furnish patches. Its own version of OpenOffice of course is StarOffice.
It also appears to be going into the document conversion business with a StarOffice server that's supposed to translate legacy documents en masse into Adobe's PDF format.
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