open office still pulling the wrong page from the firefox playbook

[Phew. Finished torts reading for the night, so one last quick thought.]

Almost two years ago to the day, I wrote:

In my humble opinion, OOo should to take a page from the mozilla folks- take a release cycle (or more) and focus exclusively on improving performance and usability. No new features. Even remove features if necessary. This is what firefox has done over mozilla, and that’s done wonders for firefox, both in user uptake and hacker uptake. They’ve gone from dozens of paid hackers to something like ten, and despite that, because of the new focus, still increased market share and hacker interest. If open office focused on those problems for a year, licked the startup time problem, and made (say) preferences less grotesque, I think they’d see a radical improvement in uptake and involvement. Frankly, people are excited about switching from IE to firefox, as far as I can see- it offers something fairly light, quick, and new features virtually every user will use and like. No one except people who loathe Microsoft are excited to switch to open office, and they won’t be until the speed and usability issues with open office are addressed. Sadly, I see no evidence that OOo is focused on these problems- if OOo wants to be competitive and relevant, if it wants to excite people, those must be job #1 for the OOo team.

Basically every word in there is still true. Startup time is still terrible; the preferences panel is still brutal; focus is still on feature parity. They are still not focusing on what made firefox such a quantum leap over mozilla, as I discussed two years ago.

This is not to say that OOo has ignored ffox. The have apparently looked at the firefox example and decided that what they need is… plugins. Now, plugins are pretty good for users- they allow people to customize and add features without increasing substantial complexity or QA burden for core developers, or difficulty in configuration for non-power users. They are also a useful feature for a piece of software from a competitive viewpoint, in that they create a powerful network effect. (The only times I ever think twice about using firefox these days is when someone points me at a greasemonkey plugin.) So plugins aren’t bad, by any stretch of the imagination.

But plugins do not solve core problems in your product- not when those problems are lack of stability, lack of performance, lack of ease of use, lack of Killer Feature that your competition lacks. That OOo is spending time adding a plugin infrastructure- which addresses none of those problems (except hypothetically the killer feature problem, someday, if you get lucky)- shows that again they still aren’t getting it. They still have not learned the right lessons from firefox.
So c’mon, guys… where is my gnomeoffice powerpoint replacement? :)