Ability wha?

From Pinoytechblog: ICAP chooses Ability Office. I first read about it or Bernie Janda’s blog here.

The reaction from PTB has been expectedly fierce, saying in effect that ICAP was out of its mind to choose that in lieu of Openoffice, and hinting at under the table arrangements.

However, I’d like to ask a few things first:

  1. According to the Inq article, the ICAP (Internet Cafe Association of the Philippines) “teamed up with the local distributor of Ability Software to distribute a suite of applications similar to Microsoft Office but significantly cheaper.” What exactly is a ‘team-up’?
  2. More to the point, does it make it compulsory to implement it amongst its members? Or maybe it’s a distributorship agreement, where ICAP members are outlets where people can buy it from?
  3. If it is to be implemented in member cafes, how did they go about the selection process?
  4. The article mentions price as a major figure in determining their ‘teaming up’ with Ability software. Is this the only factor? And if it is so, how can you beat free?

This comes in the light of a recent personal experience, where I had been busy installing several brand new PCs with OpenOffice at a client of mine, to try and wean them away from, err, ‘dubiously procured’ MS Office 2000 installations.

Management was particularly looking forward to these new Celerons, which with 512mb. were capable of running OpenOffice. OpenOffice ran exceedingly slow on the previous PIII machines, hampering their adaptation. Now with the new PCs, all they had to purchase were Windows licenses, and thus, they thought, all their problems would end.

However, the opposite continues to be true, as the clerical staff to whom these were assigned to clamored for MS Excel and MS Word, without which, they claimed, they could not work productively. I reasoned to them the Management decision above, which was met with stares of indifference, some measure of hostility, and continued bewailing. Since they had become friends of mine, I was even offered bribes to install MS, winking that no one would ever know.

The situation continues to remain unresolved however, as I insisted that they please try them out first. This has left me with the obvious conclusion that if only OpenOffice was as widespread as MS Office, then we would not have had this problem.

Almost all of us have become quite the expert at MS Office, mainly because it was the default application available on the machines we first used. Since Internet Cafes are usually where the public first tries out PCs, and since these usually use MS Office, this continues to remain true. Many of the next generation of PC users will continue to use MS Office not mainly for its features, but because it is the one we’ve come to be familiar with.

Jose and Maria de la Cruz don’t usually have time to search the Internet for applications when they’re in a hurry to finish a report or spit out a presentation. They just need it done as quickly and effortlessly as possible, and today, MS Office is the de facto set of applications that will do that job.

It’s therefore alarming that Internet Cafes will adopt a never-heard suite of applications inspite of the fact that there appears to be a more compelling choice out there. I imagine a new generation of PC users adapted to using OpenOffice, and I think what a wonderful thing that would be.

However, I still would like to give ICAP the benefit of the doubt, and assume they have good reasons. If it is not a distributorship and is in fact a compulsory widespread adaptation of Ability, I hope this decision came out of a fair selection process and with the good of their customers in mind.

This therefore requires more thorough research, and I hope Alex (whom I saw earlier today, although I didn’t know he wrote that till tonight), will look deeper into it. Pending reason to believe otherwise, I think its best we avoid conclusions.

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