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Quickoffice: We have consided open-source

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Office suites were certainly important catalyst of smartphones. They attracted users to smartphones, especially as the importance of applications such as word processors and spreadsheet programs became universal, and smartphones and PDAs were the only devices with enough power to support them.

Quickoffice is one of the main players in this sector of smartphone software, and their association with manufacturers such as Nokia, and the software inclusion in many S60 phones drove their popularity even further.

PhoneReport’s Meraj Chhaya spoke to Paul Moreton, Vice President of Product Management, Quickoffice, at the Symbian Smarphones Show, and approached the very important matter of open-sourcing software, among others.

Meraj Chhaya: “Quickoffice is known to most S60 users, as its included in almost every single device shipped from Nokia that implements that software platform. Could you give us the financial details from the deal between Quickoffice and the Nokia?”

Paul Moreton: “What we have developed is an application that is sold aftermarket and on a device. We’re paid by the platform to be on the devices, and then we sell aftermarket, and the reason we made such an arrangement was to provide a relief, and not restrict users to one OEM, it’s a way out of Nokia.”

Meraj Chhaya: “What is the percentage of the consumers that buy Quickoffice after the trial on their devices has ended?”

Paul Moreton: “Nokia doesn’t report volumes, so you cannot see precisely how many units were shipped. What we can see is the number of users that come onto Quickmanager, which is our catalogue, and then we can see how many of those upgrade. We don’t give our percentages, but it’s very good.”

Meraj Chhaya: “Are users comfortable in carrying their office around in such a small device?”

Paul Moreton: “There is a request from some of the power users that have more confidential documents, and in this latest version, we’ve included password and encryption, because that’s been one of the requests.”

Meraj Chhaya: “Does Quickoffice insert a strain in people’s live by making them carry their work life all the time with them? Why would anyone want to do that anyway?”

Paul Moreton: “We certainly don’t force anyone to carry their work life with them, we do provide a tool-set. There’s a lot times when you are standing in a line and so forth, and Quickoffice has provided a tool for when you have white space, when you are standing in a line at a coffee shop, things like that, and you need to look at some things, you don’t want to sit still.”

Meraj Chhaya: “What’s changing in the office suite world? Both Microsoft and OpenOffice are constantly updating their software versions. Most consumers are happy with a bit of texting, spreadsheet usage, and creating slides. Update us on the market?”

Paul Moreton: “First of all, the file formats have changed on Microsoft Office 2007, so that’s a big change. We don’t support all features on Microsoft Office, I would say that we support a subset, and we’re always adding to it, such as this password encryption feature, and new features that people are asking.

We’re never going to support everything you can do on your desktop, but we are going to support things that people want the most.”

Meraj Chhaya: “Is the lack of processor speed causing a slowdown on the advancement of office suite applications?”

Paul Moreton: “The processor speed is much better now. I’ve been at Quickoffice for seven years, and in those seven years we’ve progressed a lot in terms of processor speed.

Right now it’s pretty good to do mostly anything, you can handle most large files in Quickoffice now, but there are things that we don’t support, such as macros, and pivot tables in Excel for example, those are things that require a lot of processing speed, and even on the desktop, sometimes pivot tables slow down, it’s just not practical for the mobile device.”

Meraj Chhaya: “What’s new in Quickoffice 6.0?”

Paul Moreton: “Quickoffice 6 has several new things: it has the password encryption that we spoke about; it also has ZIP support, which we didn’t have previously; it has charting in Excel, which has been a request feature; it also has access to WebDAV shares in some devices. These have all been requested features.

The WebDAV is one of those interesting ones. A lot of people don’t want to put all files onto SD cards and stick them into their phones, because if they lose their phone, all their files become vulnerable, whereas if they are in a remote storage location, you change your password, and no one can get to them. So that’s a very attractive feature.”

Meraj Chhaya: “Has everything improved for developers outside Quickoffice?”

Paul Moreton: “We do have support for dictionaries that are outside Quickoffice, and printer drivers, that sort of things.”

Meraj Chhaya: “In your opinion, does open-sourcing help a company to develop further?”

There are two things in open-sourcing. One of them is Symbian going open-source, which certainly helps, as it drops the standard cost per device, and spread it to more devices, so that’s certainly a good thing.”

Paul Moreton: “Another thing is the open source of our own software, and whether we can open source it or not. At this point, in our business we have a licensing model, and for a foreseeable future, we are thinking of continuing to have a licensing model, rather than an open source model.”

Meraj Chhaya: “We have asked this to many other companies, but it is always healthy to receive feedback from other players in the industry: How open can a company go before revenue is reduced to zero?”

Paul Moreton: “For us, we are a little bit different than most of the other developers, in that we have a component on the devices themselves. Could we open-source our software to the platform? We certainly could, and then charge for services, such as integration services, and charge these for the OEMs to integrate Quickoffice in their platforms, such as Touch UI, and things of these nature.

We’ve certainly considered doing this model, and that makes us different to other companies out there that are primarily trying to license to end-users, which in open-source doesn’t work very well.”

Meraj Chhaya: “In your opinion, was it fundamental for Symbian to become open?”

Paul Moreton: “It was, primarily because of the pressure of Google and LiMo coming into the marketplace, and the pressure right now is on Microsoft, because Windows Mobile is the only one where manufacturers have to pay a licence fee on, and it will build on them as they are the only ones who have that licensing model, versus the other OSes which are free.”

Meraj Chhaya: “What’s next in the mobile technology environment?”

Paul Moreton: “There are a lot of things going on with Touch UI coming into Symbian. UIQ had it before, but now you start to see Touch UI taking a bigger and bigger role in S60, I believe there is going to be a lot of innovation around Touch UI.”

Meraj Chhaya: “What’s next for Quickoffice?”

Paul Moreton: “Version 6 is the latest thing, we’re just rolling it out here at this show, and we’re continuing to progress, we’re not just staying still, we are always getting feedback from the users and trying to move the product forward.”

Meraj Chhaya: “Paul thank you very much for your time.”

Paul Moreton: “You’re welcome, Meraj.”

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By , Editor-in-Chief, Johannesburg office

Published on Dec 17th, 2008 GMT +2

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