[K12OSN] OT: any OpenOffice vs. MS Office studies/cases out there?

massonpj at delhi.edu massonpj at delhi.edu
Mon Feb 23 17:00:42 UTC 2009

I took Ryan's comment for what it was, more of a statement expressing a
frustration with a software evaluation process that relies more on
tradition and perception than criteria and metrics. Almost three years ago
I installed SUSE Linux, replacing Windows, on my laptop to the chagrin (and
dire warnings) of my IT staff. My interests were to provide a proof of
concept and a reference model for Linux Desktop. What I discovered,
anecdotally, was interesting. While at the EDUCUASE National Conference I
tried a little experiment (albeit, noon-scientific). Whenever I introduced
my desktop to colleagues, and referenced SLED, the conversations focused on
the typical (traditional?) issues raised with open source: support,
quality, TCO, etc. However if I introduced the same SLED environment as a
test version of Vista (remember this is 2+ years ago), the focus of the
conversion remained on the operating system's features and functionality
not its development methodology: everyone loved the cube, the search, even
the ripple effect.

I would put forth that in both cases (SLED or Vista) the evaluation
criteria should be the same. What is the SLA offered to your institution
from Microsoft? What is the TCO with a Windows environment? And also, what
are the new features and functionality that might impact users?

So to Ryan's point, I think we do ourselves a disservice by promoting open
source, rather than promoting the applications (please do not infer that I
think this group or anyone on this thread is doing so). What, for example,
was the threshold for organizations to switch from Word Perfect to Word,
from Eudora to Outlook, from Mac's to PC's, and maybe now back again? Why
do folks use Firefox rather than IE, or more specifically Google rather
than Yahoo?

While I firmly believe the open source development process yields better
software, far more than lower costs, such as more features, faster pace of
development, fewer bugs, etc., introducing a development and licensing
model into the discussion may be analogous to introducing the programming
language the project was built in, "Java is better than PHP, so Sakai is
better than Moodle."

Like the development methodology itself, open source adoption will excel
due to transparent, bottom-up, incremental and emergent processes rather
than the top-down, centralized approach traditionally seen within
hierarchical organizations. The deployment of open source in our data
centers is a good example. Obviously there is a larger user base with
desktop tools, and thus "co-developers" who want to participate probably
because they can touch the software, however I cannot  recall hearing of
any executive directives from any public institution/organization that
mandated open source in the data center, so I would not expect to hear of
one for the desktop either.

Rather than trying to force the adoption through traditional
initiative-based approaches that have led us to "enterprise resource
planning," I would recommend a emergent process where open source options
are introduced as changes in the ecosystem offer opportunities. I like the
idea of providing students with OO on a USB drive. On our own campus, this
would provide us not only a way to get OO into the "culture" but also
increase the adoption of other tools (anti-virus, email, etc.) that we
already deploy to students. We have adopted Moodle for our LMS, not as a
top-down initiative from the CIO or Provost, but through a formal
evaluation process. We are moving to thin clients and netbooks for our
remote faculty, not as a system-wide initiative, but as replacements in our
academic labs and administrative offices through our traditional
replacement cycle. We are moving email to Zimbra as Domino Webmail retires,
beginning with Alumni, then students and maybe staff.

All of these processes mirror the reality of (successful) deployments were
technology is introduced at the same pace as users can articulate needs. I
think we are much farther along than even a year ago and am impressed by
the effort.

Best of luck,

Patrick Masson
Chief Information Officer
331B Bush Hall
State University of New York
College of Technology at Delhi
Delhi, New York 13753
Office: 607-746-4670
Fax: 607-746-4300
Email: massonpj at delhi.edu
AIM: uclasunydelhi

I should've placed a little more "tongue in cheek" when I said that. I
tell them pretty quickly that it is in fact not MS Office or Firefox.
I'm lucky to be in a position where the BOE and Supt. trust my judgment
and no one is dictating any particular piece of software. I even have a
board member who was already using OOo.

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