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Monday, 17 November 2008 04:24

US consumers prefer OpenOffice to Google Docs

Hosted, and generally free, office applications are being touted as a big threat to Microsoft's dominance of the desktop, but a survey of US Internet consumers found that free desktop based office apps like OpenOffice are what Microsoft should fear most. For now at least.

ClickStream Technologies surveyed 2400 adult US. Internet users on their use of both hosted and desktop based paid-for and free office applications. It concluded that "Although Google Docs and Spreadsheets has been touted as a potential competitor to the Microsoft Office Suite, OpenOffice is currently the more likely app to take that position."

ClickStream found that consumers remain to be convinced about the benefits of 'cloud computing'. It attributed the preference for OpenOffice as "possibly indicating the value of offline and local processing enabled by installed applications."

The survey also suggested that Google had been unable to leverage its very popular Gmail email services to drive the uptake of its SaaS offerings. None of the survey sample viewed an email attachment in Google Docs using the 'Open as a Google Document' feature in Gmail.

Overall ClickStream found that use of free productivity applications such as Google Docs and OpenOffice remains low, while Microsoft Office "shows no signs of declining popularity," being used by over half the survey sample.

Of all free productivity applications observed, OpenOffice was the most popular, in use by five percent of all users. OpenOffice also had the heaviest and highest frequency of use among free apps, with an average of 548 clicks performed and 8.7 days of use per user.

Web-based Google Docs was the second most popular free productivity app, used by one percent of users. Google docs however had the lightest use of all productivity apps, with an average of 40 actions performed in the app (compare with 548 in OpenOffice and 1,797 in Microsoft Word), and the fewest average days used during the six month period.

Other hosted free apps barely registered. "Less than on percent of the sample used Zoho Virtual Office, [and] no use was observed for ThinkFree or WriteBoard," ClickStream said.

It added that "Of all participants who used Google Docs or Google Spreadsheets during the study, 68 percent also used Word at least once, indicating that Google Docs has yet to be considered a stand-alone product by most of its users. By contrast, only 26 percent of OpenOffice users also used Word during the six-month study.

Microsoft Word was by far the most popular and most frequently used of all (free or for-purchase, web-based or installed) productivity applications, used by 51 percent of surveyed users.

To conduct the survey ClickStream recruited 2,400 U.S. internet users over the age of 18 who were asked to complete a survey and install ClickSight, its data collection tool which records click-level user behaviour data across all browsers and applications.

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