OpenOffice.org has always been something a Cinderella in the free software world. Partly this is because it started out as a proprietary program, and partly because it took a while for its code to be sorted out (although the same is true for Mozilla/Firefox). Whatever the reason, it's not had as high a profile as other major open source programs. But that looks like it is about to change, thanks to the interest in the recently released version 3.0:
The launch went off as planned - what we hadn’t planned for was the phenomenal interest which has crippled our entire web infrastructure since about noon BST. The engineers managed to cobble together a quick temporary landing page to apologise to people trying to find out more about 3.0.
So, three years in the making, release 3.0 already is attracting huge interest. If you haven’t checked out the new features, and downloaded the software to find out what the fuss is all about, then why not give it a try - but it might be wise to wait a day or so until the servers have cooled down a bit.
As well as the stampede to the servers, what's noteworthy is the split by platform: around 79% of downloads are for Windows. That's good news, I think, because it means that open source is being deployed on a proprietary system, giving many people the chance to experience the quality of free code. I'm firmly of the view that if we can get enough people using Firefox and OpenOffice.org (and maybe Thunderbird, too) on Windows, then it will be easier to move them across to GNU/Linux (perhaps with a little help from the ultraportables that typically offer Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice.org as standard.)
As Italo Vignoli, Italy's OpenOffice.org guru, writes:
It is probably time, for the industry analysts, to give OpenOffice.org the market share it deserves. Of course, it’s a difficult task, because the adoption patterns of free software are different from those of proprietary software (which, most of the times, comes preinstalled on the PC).
Free software is downloaded when the PC is already at the user premises, and therefore is difficult to calculate which is the percentage of adoptions over the total of downloads (and Linux distributions, and covermounts CDs, and copies made from friends, and…).
Italy is one of the stars in the OpenOffice.org world – not least thanks to Vignoli's marketing:
Sometimes today, a sunny Italian Sunday, someone will download for the fourth million time the Italian version of OpenOffice.org. In the same timeframe, the number of PCs sold in Italy has been around six million. Of course, downloads do not count installed copies, because there might be multiple downloads for the same PC or from the same person (for instance, I have downloaded OpenOffice.org six times, because I own a PC and a Mac and I have downloaded versions 2.3.1, 2.4 and 2.4.1), but also a single download for multiple installations (as in the case of enterprises or schools). In addition, downloads do not include installations from the CDs included in the trade press and Linux distributions, where OpenOffice.org is already included as standard in the basic configuration.
Things are definitely looking bright for OpenOffice.org – and not just in sunny Italy.