Rivals still fear Redmond and its deep pockets, but its clout is diminishing. The decision to unveil Office's source code is the proof.
A few years ago, few analysts would have predicted that Microsoft might share the key computer code that powers its dominant Office productivity software with dozens of foreign governments and international agencies. Yet in late September, the industry barely blinked when the world's largest software outfit announced it would open the code to one of its crown jewels. Ostensibly, Gates & Co. coughed up its code to keep customers happy and maintain a lucrative line of business with governmental organizations. A host of alternatives from StarOffice, OpenOffice, and other pretenders can do much of what Microsoft Office now does, and at a fraction of the price.
Not that anyone is tossing out Office yet: It remains a superior product and enjoys a near monopoly on the desktop market for word processing, spread sheets, and other basic office software. But the move to defend Office is one more sign that Microsoft is no longer an unstoppable force. "It was going to be the company that had the operating system for everything, and they were going to win the game. Today when you ask people about this, they are not sure," says Jim Mackey, director of development at the Woodside Institute and a research who studies the performance of very large companies.
News source: BusinessWeek Online