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Microsoft Office Faces British Invasion 298

jdkane writes "CNet reports that a small British software maker, Ability, plans to challenge one of Microsoft's most profitable markets by selling its low-cost package of productivity applications in North America. Ability Office faces competition from Corel's Word Perfect, Sun Microsystems' StarOffice package and OpenOffice, it's free, open-source sibling. None of these products have captured a significant share of the market from Microsoft's Office. Does anybody have any hands-on experience with the Ability Office suite, or are there any general speculations as to why this move will make a difference in the office software market (if not just for the bottom line of the software company)?"
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Microsoft Office Faces British Invasion

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  • by Gerad ( 86818 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:37PM (#7371145)
    Man, what a misleading headline. For a moment, I had this amusing mental image of fully armed British special forces storming Microsoft headquarters.

    Curse you, slashdot!
  • DRM (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Zeppelingb ( 609128 )
    A new alternative would be great, but what is going to happen when MS office starts including buit in DRM on its .doc files? Hopefully some of this new software will start to bring people away from proprietary systems like this.
    • Re:DRM (Score:3, Interesting)

      by donutello ( 88309 )
      DRM is an option. The default is to store your documents and send your mail in a non DRM format. However, you have the option to use DRM on those documents if you want to control who sees the documents you publish and what they can do with them.
      • <parenoid-rant> Ah, but with DRM MS will have to use some sort of encryption, which under the DMCA would be illegal to decode in any non-MS product. Step 2 would be for MS to use encryption in all their documents "because we've integrated IE (Insideous Encryption) into the Office Suite and it's really impossible for use to remove it without breaking Office..." Then non-MS office suites will be unable to read documets that the 95% of the world who uses MS Office produces.
    • DRM could certainly become an issue at some point, should Microsoft choose to pursue it. IMHO if they did, all it would do is push more people to the various alternatives. They would be complete retards to even consider it.

      What I would like to see is an office suite built around something like a framework similar to Eclipse. Not everyone performs Mail-Merges, nor does everyone require all the little drawing tools in MS-Word. If it was an open platform/open framework where extensions could be supported by
  • by VistaBoy ( 570995 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:37PM (#7371149)
    OpenOffice rocks. The new 1.1.0 is even better, since now you can make PDF files. Anyone paying $500 for Office XP needs to visit

    I wonder what disrespects Microsoft more: pirating their shitty office suite, or hating it so much that you refuse to even pirate it.
    • Regardless of what people think about it, MSaccess is still a staple of databases for business for the 'average guy'.

      A business does not run on spreadsheets alone..
      • I don't understand why they don't just embed SQLite in OpenOffice. SQLite is public domain, so there aren't any problems from licenses, and it runs great. It's got a few minor problems, but they are only minor problems. And, OpenOffice already has the hooks for a database, you just need to set up a server, which is stupid.
        • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @01:15PM (#7371343) Homepage Journal
          Ok, so i should have defined my statement more, its not the database backend that is the problem. ( i know about its hooks for external database servers )

          Where are the forms, reports, etc in OO that a common user can get too and use as easily as they can with MSAcess? Remember they have ZERO training... they are not IT people..

          Until then, its not a replacement for MSOffice ( plus we aren't even discussing the missing component of *integrated* groupware. )

          Don't get me wrong i would prefer to give people an open alternative. but OO is not ready to **replace** MSO...

          Nor is KOffice..

          But they ARE getting closer..
          • by Decaff ( 42676 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @02:13PM (#7371645)
            Forms, mail merges, standard letters are all there under the AutoPilot.

            Open the data navigator and you have tables and queries including QBE grids just like in Access. Reports are now present in OO 1.1.

            Users with ZERO training and no experience of Access would find equal problems getting things going. I would suggest that users with zero training should not be doing table design, queries or reports. I know from bitter experience that the results of allowing this are frequently an unmanageable mess.

            OO *is* ready to replace MS - I have used it for exactly this in commercial organisations.

          • Hmm, I think you haven't used OOo lately. The progress in OOo over the last 2 years was phenominal. There is little reason to use MSOffice today. If you have the money to waste, then I'm not going to stop you, but maybe you should download the latest copy and try in. The forms and stuff are there alright.

            I have been using OOo every day for 3 years now - the first year was rather irritating and the second year was occationally irritating, but nowadays, I never have any problems.

    • by bwalling ( 195998 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @01:11PM (#7371313) Homepage
      OpenOffice rocks. The new 1.1.0 is even better, since now you can make PDF files. Anyone paying $500 for Office XP needs to visit

      I use OpenOffice at home. I won't use it (or recommend it) at work. MS Office exposes components that are used in many of our applications. Click a button in these apps, and your data is in an Excel spreadsheet open on your screen, or your customer list has just been pushed into Word, ready for your mail merge. Sure, I know how to do all of these things without the whiz-bang one click, but most of the users don't. Even if they did, why should I reduce their productivity by making them configure an export, run it, then import the text file into StarCalc?

      One of the benefits that Microsoft gets by being the market leader is that software is written for it. StarOffice/OpenOffice has a large hurdle to overcome there.
      • by Spoing ( 152917 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @02:22PM (#7371688) Homepage
        One of the benefits that Microsoft gets by being the market leader is that software is written for it. StarOffice/OpenOffice has a large hurdle to overcome there.

        On that note, the StarOffice and OpenOffice SDK [] now has support for Python [] development [].

        StarOffice and OpenOffice also support StarBASIC (built-in VBA syntax compatible), C++, Java, as well as Python.

        Adding Python, though, has shown that the base API needs to be cleaned up to make it simpler. I expect interesting things to happen on this end between now and the next release, though it's usable right now.

      • Strange ... many people seem to expect to be completely free. Don't they see that after saving $100.000 on licenses (not unrealistic in a sufficiently large organization), they can spend $50.000 on tweaking OOo to their needs, and still save $50.000 altogether?

        After all, since this is open source, the tweaking possibilities are literally endless!

        • After all, since this is open source, the tweaking possibilities are literally endless

          Our company has no one on staff with the skills to modify OpenOffice. A consultant or two would run the cost up past MS Office easily.
          • Our company has no one on staff with the skills to modify OpenOffice. A consultant or two would run the cost up past MS Office easily.

            Fair enough, but many won't even do the math. I'm quite astonished to see how many companies totally refuse to consider the alternatives. It's really just another way of buying software: Instead of buying licenses, you "buy" the services needed to switch. I find myself wanting to speak up in the manager's face: "Hey, you're running a business! At least do the math!"

            But sh

      • since now you can make PDF files
      You can make PDFs in 1.0 as well. Select [print]. You get a printing dialoge box. At the top is a dropdown menu to select a printer to use. Choose the option to print to the PDF converter. This is a long standing feature - OOo 1.1 does a good job of making this old feature more obvious.

    • There is no room for a cheap commercial competitor to MS Office. People who don't want to pay for MS are going to use the free alternative, not StarOffice, not AgilityOffice, etc.

    • I might add and parrot another thing users are stating below; integration. But not at the office level - that is now pase. Instead watch the ever-increasing tight integration between SharePoint, Exchange, and other Microsoft servers which are quickly becoming the backbone of Office.

      Eventually I doubt there will even be an install of office, but instead an office "server" comprised of services between sql server, sharepoint, exchange, drm, and other services.

      Just a thought.

    • Obviously it's not better then actually paying for the software, but it still extends their monopoly. That's why they didn't care about the piracy in Taiwan for such a long time, and still don't really care about piracy in emerging markets. It's better to become the standard while piracy wipes out smaller and local development.

      It all comes down to a balance of maintaining their monopoly and making money. I'm sure that if their market share starts to slip, their lighten up on their more annoying registr
      • Maybe we Open Source types should turn ultra-honest and grass up all those business users of hooky MS Office copies we may come accross to the BSA. I mean hardly a day goes by without MS spouting on about the evils of piracy so we should do our best to help them by dropping those nasty pirates in it up to their necks by booking them a software audit.

        By the time the BSA has done an RIAA on a significant percentage of companies it would interesting to see what happens to's market share. And if MS don'
    • I wonder what disrespects Microsoft more: pirating their shitty office suite, or hating it so much that you refuse to even pirate it.

      Actually, pirating Office just furthers their monopoly lock-in, and helps them with their plans for world domination.

      By pirating office, you're only making the world a worse place for everybody but Microsoft. For your own sake, use OpenOffice!
  • Great (Score:5, Informative)

    by flibble-san ( 700028 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:37PM (#7371150)
    I first used Ability office a good few years ago and I found it to be very fast and use less resources than the likes of MS Office. However I feel Ability has very strong competition from the likes of, which in my personal opinion is much better and "polished" although Ability's interface is a lot better for those brought up on MS Office.
    • Ability? Wow, talk about a blast from the past, they've certainly been off my radar for a while, having last used their software ages ago. Anyway, Ability is in no way a competitor for MS Office, I think there is a little CNet inflation going on here. Ability Office was an integrated office application like ClarisWorks or Microsoft Works, not an application suite like Microsoft Office or OpenOffice. Against the former, it might make an impact, the latter is a more difficult proposition IMHO. Where Abil
      • Why do you automatically assume that an integrated suite is better than a load of separate applications? I used to use Claris in the 1.0 days (on Windows 3.1, where it was 5MB, and Word 2.0 was 10MB), and I loved the way I could insert a spreadsheet in a wordprocessor doc (and have the toolbars and menus become those of the spreadsheet app when I selected it). I recently had a nightmare experience trying to insert a Gnumeric sheet into an Abiword document (both parts of the Gnome Office suite, but separat
        • Why do you automatically assume that an integrated suite is better than a load of separate applications?

          I don't, it's an apples to oranges thing, and for some an apple is better than an orange while for others it's the other way around, and I actually prefer seperate applications. Thanks to the Slashdot effect, I've not been able to ascertain whether Ability is still a monolithic application or not (it used to be a single binary called "ability.exe"). That approach would be non-starter for a feature bl

          • Re:Great (Score:2, Funny)

            by IM6100 ( 692796 )
            it's an apples to oranges thing

            Which is a difficult comparison to make on modern hardware, as Apple ran Orange Computer out of business with legal harassment.
    • The download versions from our web site last for 10 days following installation. Re-install will not allow an additional 10 days. Sorry. If you download and install Ability Write in January and then download and install Ability Spreadsheet in May, then Spreadsheet will not run since Ability shares the trial period across all Ability applications.

      10 days? 10 days?
      Who just allows 10 freaking days for evaulation these days?

      However... according to their FAQ, the software can import/export Microsoft document
    • Re: Great (Score:5, Informative)

      by g0_p ( 613849 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @01:15PM (#7371342)
      Just downloaded it from their site.
      + Seems lighter and faster.
      + Look-and-feel is very much like Office which might huge win points with non techy people who dont want to learn a new UI.
      + It also has an export to PDF functionality.
      + Its just 14MB as compared to OO1.1 63 MB.
      - Almost no standard templates. Maybe you can download them separately.
      - The Spreadsheet does not seem as functional since the charting utilities seems a little too plain.
      - .doc files import functionality is as bad or worse than OpenOfice. I had doc file that would be displayed totally warped on OpenOffice1.1 and this one does the same. (Its got 2-3 nested tables and stuff, I think that is what screws it up.)
      +/- A lot of buttons that are usually visible in Word are not visible on this one. You could say it avoids button clutter. But that could either be because some of the functionality is not there, but the essential editing buttons are all there..

      Overall I think junta might take towards it because it has a look-and-feel that is not very different from M$Office. Though functionality wise , and polish wise OO1.1 is WAY better. (I love the new uncluttered OO1.1 UI.)
  • ...they're not into the web server business (slashdotted already!)
  • by Mondoz ( 672060 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:41PM (#7371161)
    If only it would integrate itself into my OS, my handheld, my car, my toothbrush, my toaster, and my TV Dinners.

    I'm not sure I could cope with an Office suite that didn't...
  • by jusdisgi ( 617863 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:41PM (#7371163)
    In other news, fear is struck into the heart of Hillshire Farms, as a small British consortium has announced plans to import "bangers" to the United States.
  • Doubtful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moehoward ( 668736 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:41PM (#7371167)
    People want to use at home what they use at work. MS Office is the "standard" for corporate America. When people change jobs, employers and the employee do not want to have to learn something new. A "standar" like MS Office offers certain benefits like this that are difficult to overcome, even given cost concerns.

    Then, you have the educational dimension as well. Schools don't want to have classes for both. These days, community colleges are filled with people seeking Office certification (MOS/MOUS certification). Some companies and employees value these certifications. Schools play to that market and won't offer 2 totally different word processing courses. Too expensive. They cater to the market.

    These factors are complex and difficult to overcome. Don't just scream "Stupid CEO! Office is too expensive!" before you understand all of the factors.
    • Re:Doubtful (Score:3, Interesting)

      by simetra ( 155655 )
      I agree that MS Office is the standard, and it is where I work. However, one would hope that end users wouldn't need to take a class to learn the other. Unfortunately, my experience is that end users do not think about what they're actually doing, but memorize steps needed to accomplish their goals. Most of them anyway. There is the small, say less than 10 percent of end users who do actually think, and are able to figure stuff out on their own.

      Anyhoo... I've tried Ability Office, and it seems pretty s
    • Re:Doubtful (Score:2, Interesting)

      When people change jobs, employers and the employee do not want to have to learn something new.

      Learn something new? Okay, OOo isn't EXACTLY like Word, but why would anyone need significant retraining? As long as you know what you want to do, you've got online help. On a basic level, word processors haven't evolved much since the Word for Windows 2 days.

      Schools don't want to have classes for both. These days, community colleges are filled with people seeking Office certification (MOS/MOUS certification).

    • Re:Doubtful (Score:2, Interesting)

      by GRH ( 16141 )
      People want to use at home what they use at work.

      What about for people who aren't in the workforce?

      My retired parents use a computer for light word-processing, and they have no need for 90% of Word's features, plus having next to nil income makes Office at $500 even less attractive.

      Then how about school aged kids whose parents don't use computers (or at least Office) at work? The kids just need to bang out reports, essays and the like at home.

      Plus, there's also non-profit organizations. These places
    • There is an Office certification?!!
    • Re:Doubtful (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Leonig Mig ( 695104 )
      But that's the whole point of ability office, it replacates the look and feel of the industry standard - M$ Office. people who only ever use the basics of word processiing and spreadsheets wouldn't even realise the difference. admittedly in reality companies will never make the switch, Ability is not full featured enough. however, when you're buying a PC for your kids, would you rather spend 249 on Office Pro or 4 (rough OEM price) for ability? furthermore when 99% of home users buy a new pc, do they real
    • Re:Doubtful (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Spoing ( 152917 )
      When people change jobs, employers and the employee do not want to have to learn something new.

      And yet, people learn 'new' programs all the time...on the Internet. Not counting that, there are still other applications that are typically propriatory to a company that the new employees won't automatically know how to use.

      When people go home, they don't ask for photo editor X over photo editor Y -- they generally 'pick' the one that is bundled or buy the one they see in the store.

      The learning curve is b

    • Re:Doubtful (Score:3, Interesting)

      The biggest leverage Microsoft has for forcing new workers to learn Microsoft Office, is the insistance by recruitment agencies and employers that they submit resumes and CV's in Microsoft Word format. That more or less forces everyone to learn Windows, Microsoft Word before anything else.

      I've seen the evolution of word processing technology in my high-school. There used to be one classroom completely full of mechanical typewriters; great big clunky machines that dripped oil and rust. These were replaced
    • There is no "standard" MS Office. Do you mean Office 95? Office 97? Office 2000? Office XP? There are many fundamental differences between these versions, both in terms of user interface and functionality, for example MS Access has been a major headache in terms of database and code upgrading between Office versions.

      Every few years an organisation is going to have to retrain its staff, whether or not they stick to MS Office. Any school or collage who teaches or trains for a specific Word processor or
    • Well said. Basically, the monopoly position of Microsoft Office (at better than 90%) means that using it is mandatory for anyone who interacts with the rest of the world, no matter how overpriced it is, or how much cheaper or equally functional the alternatives are. These days, if you want to submit your schoolwork electronically, it must be in Microsoft Word format to be accepted. If you want to be able to depend on using electronic documents and forms from businesses and government agencies, you'd bett
    • You have to be certified to use MS Office? What is next? Certification for to use the mouse? To turn the computer on?
    • So what the hell is there to 'learn' about a wordprocessor??? Come on.
  • by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:43PM (#7371180)
    If StarOffice, with Sun's clout behind it, can't make a dent in the MS Office monopoly, what makes anyone think a tiny house like Ability will be able to. So long as MS keeps its licensing fees just below the threshhold where it becomes worth it for an enterprise to switch (and retrain a huge number of people, and deal with the % of files where the formatting won't transfer cleanly, etc.), the biggest competitor for Office 2003 is Office 2000.
    • If StarOffice, with Sun's clout behind it, can't make a dent in the MS Office monopoly, what makes anyone think a tiny house like Ability will be able to.

      While I like StarOffice and OpenOffice, I haven't started to strongly recommend it and pass OpenOffice on to friends till the 1.1 release because of the substantial improvements and a few nifty features.

      Sun's serious sales and marketing efforts only started with the build up and release of StarOffice 6.0 -- mainly as a way to sell more Sun hardware on

  • Ehhh ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:43PM (#7371182) Homepage Journal
    It only runs on Windows. And its interface, which the manufacturers coyly call "industry-standard", is a Microsoft Office clone.

    I wish them luck, but I have to wonder when people are going to realize that the way to challenge Microsoft is not to try to be Microsoft. Any product (yes, this includes a lot of Linux software) that slavishly imitates Microsoft is going to be written off, with some justification, as an inferior knock-off. IMO the M$ Office interface is a lousy one; how 'bout trying to write something better, guys, and see how that does? And while you're at it, make Linux and OS X versions -- in fact, try starting in those markets first. Yes, the pool of potential customers may be smaller, but there's no 900-lb. gorilla to compete with. I can almost guarantee that a fast, cheap, reliable, feature-rich office suite with a good non-M$ interface on those platforms would rapidly build up a dedicated customer base, and provide the company with a solid US revenue stream and name recognition while they get ready to tackle the Windows monolith.
    • There are MS Office replacements that are "better" than MS Office. Take, for example, Gobe Productive [], a real integrated suite that doesn't distinguish between text docs, spreadsheets, and presentations and embeds all types of documents effortlessly. This program is truly innovative and is a departure from the modular, standalone chunks that make up the disjointed but popular MS suite.

      A new, innovate program may be attractive, but not imitating a familiar look-and-feel hasn't been shown to work yet eithe
  • Noticed.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by ciroknight ( 601098 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:46PM (#7371195)
    The first thing I noticed is just how much it looks like Microsoft Office. With that degree of visual compatibility, you could probably drop it in place with MS Office and users not even notice the difference....

    Looks like we actually have a competitor now guys..
  • The article fails to mention Lotus Smartsuite [], which, miraculously, is still around.
    • Wow, OS/2 versions still available and being patched.

      How about Linux and OS X versions IBM ? I'd love to see an AmiPro running in Aqua, always did like that - especially compared to WinWord.
      • Yes, come to think of it, I wonder if IBM, our favourite corporate open source advocate, would be prepared to open source it so it can be updated and ported. I really can't see Lotus shipping an awful lot of copies anymore to be honest, their biggest product now is probably Domino.

        In the meantime, Smartsuite 5 works just fine in WINE.
  • by keesh ( 202812 ) * on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:48PM (#7371207) Homepage
    I tried a free trial of it a while ago (came on the front of a magazine). It was usable, but not as good as OpenOffice. Unfortunately, after installing it, I was unable to print anything from any application, and opening Control Panel would cause a system crash. It seems that the program was installing dodgy system controls. Hopefully that's fixed now... I'm MS-free now, though, so I guess I'll never know...
  • by argoff ( 142580 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:52PM (#7371224)
    Open Office is attractive, not because of the cost, but because it does not lock people into closed vendors and closed technologies. IMHO the whole goal is provide an escape to the abuses of copyright and EULA's. Offer people a way out, and they will come. They did with Linux.

    IMHO we are looking at these packages in the wrong way. Instead of looking at them as a competitive alternative to Microsoft, we should be looking to them as a transitional tool to get people over to free (not as in beer) standards and software.

    • by Jameth ( 664111 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @01:07PM (#7371291)
      Oh, yeah, because Linux is just all over the desktop. I mean, damn, that 3% marketshare is frickin' enormous. Just, wow. We sure got attention real quick over the last five years that we had a usable desktop.

      Maybe, sometime down the road, we'll hit 5%. Then, with Apple's help, we might knock Microsoft's monopoly down to 90%.

      Yeah, that's a bright lookin' future!
      • Hey, progress is progress. Point is, we're not losing marketshare. And I don't think many people would say that Linux was a usable desktop system 5 years ago. A usable replacement for a UNIX workstation, maybe, but thats like KDE 1/Gnome 1.2 timeframe.
    • Completely agree. I've used MS products at work for the past few years because I had to. Despite all the ramblings on slashdot otherwise, I can't say that they are technically inferior. I would have done things differently in many places, and I have run into some obscure bugs. But all-in-all, they do allow the job to get done.

      If the choice of vendors were up to me, however, I would never choose MS. And it has nothing to do with price or technical merit. It has to do with openness. I can't believe that peop
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 02, 2003 @12:56PM (#7371243)
    Until someone breaks the Exchange Server lock on Outlook clients, and until some office suite offers something way better than Outlook -- which is entirely possible, there's no going to be much buy in to another office suite.
  • The reason that MS Office is popular is that it is the de facto standard. People need to be able to open MS Office documents (mainly Word files, I suspect). How much of the market does MS need to lose before people stop expecting everyone else to be able to open .doc files, and start sending PDFs, or similar? 10%? 50%? Does it make a difference whether they lose the market share to one or to many different competitors?

    My belief is that fragmentation in the office suite market must lead to a greater re

    • by nuggz ( 69912 )
      I'm more concerned with excel.

      Much of our knowledge is stored in calculation programs. (VB, and excel).
      It is also stored in simple excel based databases.

      Word is really quite underutilized, and you can print to pdf. Most of the time this is static information, which has little value.
      It is the calculation programs, and lists with the real information.
  • Reviewed by PCW UK (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mwongozi ( 176765 ) <> on Sunday November 02, 2003 @01:02PM (#7371277) Homepage
    You can read a (very favourable) review of Ability Office here []. In their monthly "best buys" guide, they actually rated it above Microsoft Office 2002.
  • Is there a BSD-licensed .doc import/export library?
    If there was all office produces could use it
    and it would be a commodity thing. That would be a nice move.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 02, 2003 @01:17PM (#7371362) []

    This an open source library for Reading and writing .doc formats. It is used both by Abiword [] and Kword []. Try it today, and in the unlikely event one of your documents dosen't import, You can report it so the library can improve [].

    The biggest task in breaking the Office monopoly is the file formats, so help break it.
  • by GRH ( 16141 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @01:20PM (#7371392)
    A German company called Softmaker [] is also working on an Office compatible suite. They have the word-processor done at this point (TextMaker). The benefit for a lot of us is that there are Windows/Linux/FreeBSD(!) versions.

    I had never heard of them either, but I gave the free trial a spin, and it's a heck of a lot faster than OO. The Word import capability isn't quite as good as OO, but it's more than acceptable for most docs (and being improved).

    I'm not connected to the company in any way, but I am a customer of the Linux version.

  • Now the title is more like "British server Faces Slashdot Invasion"!
  • Analogy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by El ( 94934 )
    Everbody seems to think that "MS-Office is the de facto business standard, people will always use MS-Office!" Isn't that just like saying "Fountain pens are the de facto business standard, people will always use fountain pens!" Times change. As each new version of MS-Office becomes even less compatible with the last in an effort to force purchase of upgrades and screw software developers trying to export data to third-party applications, eventually most businesses will get wise and decide to get off the mer
  • ...Ability Office lacks bell & whistles, but that actually plays to its audience. It's sufficiently far ahead of MS Works (apart maybe from Word) to suit the kids... and Mum and Dad will be pleasantly surprised with its power, too. It also includes a pretty decent PaintShopPro style graphics editor.

    I can't see it winning many points in an business environment, but it's well-pitched for the home Windows user.

    Good enough to stop people just pirating MS Office or the more tech-savvy taking OpenOffice fo

  • by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @03:17PM (#7371898) Homepage
    The roots of Ability go back many years since the early '80's, and originally created by some people from the University of Waterloo. After that, it hopped from company to company as each one sank and died. (I'm not suggesting that Ability was the cause, but it sure looked like the kiss of death when reading all the dead companies in the source code comments.)

    I did some work on the DOS version [1989] just after Migent, and a few hops before these people. I'm glad to see that it has a good home and hope they survive The Curse. (Of Ability, The Curse of Slashdot seems to have downed them for now.)

    • Yes, it was a Toronto and Waterloo company, starring Dick McMurray, Andrew Forber, Ashok Patel, Bill McLean, myself and about six other in the lead team, all of whom had been undergrads together at the University of Waterloo.

      Migent was the US-based company put together by the U.S. and Canadian investors to market it, and Ashok's later invention, the serial-port-powered pocket modem.

      I still have a copy of the old DOS version, and one of these days I'm going to get to England, and will make a point

  • by palad1 ( 571416 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @03:37PM (#7372103)
    astroturfing 101 :
    pose your product as anti-ms and get free press on /.
  • The version I saw reviewed in a German computer magazine was using Winelib.

    Is this still so?

  • Diversity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nucleon500 ( 628631 ) <> on Sunday November 02, 2003 @03:42PM (#7372155) Homepage
    Soon, I expect to hear people dissing Ability because it's commercial. This is counterproductive, however - even if it's not OpenOffice, it still brings diversity, which brings tolerance. Besides, there is a Linux/WINELib port []. ( isn't Slashdotted yet.)
  • The only way to destroy a monopoly, is for another monopoly to destroy it.

    As more and more office clones come by, microsoft will stay strong. The only way to get some competition, is that microsoft gets just one other suite competing with them. Then the monopoly is gone and 2 competing products are in.

    Lather, rinse, repeat and you end all monopolies and get a full competing market
  • Where is the presentation software? At my company people use Powerpoint more than anything else almost. I mean, no one will even listen to you if you don't have a presentation. Nothing is going to slay MSOffice without presentation software.
    • I generally don't really dislike Microsoft. But I do so hate Powerpoint. It has made it far too easy to assemble pointless, pure vanilla presentations that everyone must sit through while so-and-so clicks the mouse to make each line of text fly onto the screen.

      The last time I had to present, I used Flash to build my presentation. It took me a little bit longer to assemble than if I had used Powerpoint, but the results were astounding. People actually paid attention to what I was saying, and the information
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 02, 2003 @04:13PM (#7372448)
    The website is not responding right now (Slashdot-effect, I presume).

    The original incarnation of Ability appeared on the market years ago. It came from a Canadian company, Xanaro Technologies, on Bloor Street in Toronto. When the company went bankrupt, the assets were auctioned off. I had the opportunity to look at the source code (assembler naturally) and I also took a look at the market. At the time, there were a couple of similiar products. Context MBA (which was pCode running under an OS from UCSD) was already on the market -- but that market had already decided which OS was going to be used on PCs and that wasn't it. There was also a product called Word. Interesting product: in the days of character displays, this one had something like a "graphical window".

    The integrated Ability suite came with a word processor, database, spreadsheet, comm package (good for bbs connections), a graphing package and some other odds and ends. The most fascinating part was the ability to hotlink spreadsheets and word processing documents.

    The package came in an eye-popping black plastic case. The dies for the case must have cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars. The package was sold for about $400 or so but because Xanaro wasn't paying their bills, companies that did work for Xanaro were selling unshipped copies for less than $100. I got my copy for about $50.

    I shouldn't have thrown it out. Oh, well.

    I'm sure it's gone through a number of revisions since those days. For a while, you could find a second release for about $30 at a variety of stores (or in ads placed in PC Magazine).

    Fond memories
    (Signed) Gramps.
    • Actualy it was in C, and outperformed
      the assembler-based competition in most areas,
      entirely due to careful algorithm choices.

      Surprisingly enough, the cool platic
      case cost less than the cloth-bound manuals
      of the day, as you could press it in
      thousand-unit lots.

      (I'm biased: I did the filesystem code)

  • by acone ( 696157 ) on Sunday November 02, 2003 @04:46PM (#7372763)
    The main reason no office suite has seriouly challenged MS Office is that none can truly run on both macs and PCs. Sure, AbiWord and OpenOffice can run on mac under X11, but only the geekiest would ever use an X11 app on a mac to write a business letter or term paper. Many companies, universities, and government agencies use both macs and PCs. It would be unwise for such organizations to consider using an office suite that does not run well on all their computers. Also, in order for an office suite to catch on, it needs to work both in the home and at the office. I will personally never use anything but MS Office as long as it does not suit *all* of my Officeish needs, at work and at home. Apart from the hapless AppleWorks, I have seen no would-be Office substitutes that have really marketed toward home users. What needs to be done: 1) {Open/Star}Office, AbiWord, and I guess Ability need to have fully functional, aesthetically pleasing MacOS ports, not just hacked up porting jobs. 2) Someone needs to package these products with Macs and PCs intended for the home market. Until both of these happen, no one will seriously challenge office.

  • When you talk about "capturing a signficant share of the MS Office market," you're talking about a long-term proposition. Because of the fact that Microsoft is anti-competitive, and will hold its own interests far above the interests of its customers, it's not like you can pop in a new word processor or spreadsheet app and have it be instantly compatible with all of your locked-in Microsoft documents. Unfortunately, this means having to spend time dealing with the discrepancies in translation from one forma
  • Want a FAST, word processor that reads and writes MS Word docs, runs on Windows, Linux and QNX?
    Try AbiWord-2.0.1 just released yesterday. It loads in 1 second, looks perfect in Linux, Windows and QNX, has Tables, Footnotes, Endnotes, Mail Merge, Revisions marks and some custom features all it's own.
    For a quick introduction to AbiWord-2.0 and it's many features, try the tour [] .
    Binaries for AbiWord for Windows, QNX, SUSE 9.0 and RedHat 9 are available for download [].

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"