Can Collabora and Nextcloud crack Office 365 dominance?

Nextcloud and Collabora partnership brings free of cost office suite and cloud syncing solution together.

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Credit: Kurosawa Michiyo/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Newly formed Nextcloud and Collabora Productivity have partnered to bring  Collabora Online Development Edition (CODE) to Nextcloud users. CODE is the development version of Collabora Online, an online version of LibreOffice for enterprise customers.

While Collabora Online offers an open source alternative to Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365, when I played with it I found it much closer to LibreOffice and Office 365 than Google Docs as it offers full fledged office suite capabilities.

Unlike Google or Microsoft, Collabora Productivity doesn’t have the massive infrastructure required to offer CODE as a cloud based service. Instead, it offers the entire code as a product that users can install on their own servers. So you will be running your own office suite in your own cloud.

The Nextcloud partnership will enable CODE users to store and sync their files on remote servers. To make software deployment and management easier,  Nextcloud and Collabora Productivity are offering Docker for anyone to use, a move that indicates that containers _are_ the future of applications.

As a result users will be able to run their own OneDrive + Office 365-like infrastructure. Neat.

Can it really compete against Office 365?

The Microsoft Office alternative OpenOffice has been around for decades as an open source project by Sun Microsystems. In 2010, LibreOffice was forked from OpenOffice under the governance of The Document Foundation. Collabora products are based on the same LibreOffice.

Despite being around for a very long time, LibreOffice hasn't made a serious dent in Microsoft’s market share. So how does Collabora plan to do what LibreOffice hasn't yet been able to do?

“The difference is that this is the first full featured Online Office that can be self hosted and runs on premise. This makes this the only choice for security conscious companies and users,” says Michael Meeks, GM of Collabora Productivity.

If some big infrastructure provider were to offer a Collabora and Nextcloud-based ‘Office suite as a service’ to users, that could be a game changer. But it seems like neither Nextcloud nor Collabora are interested in building such an infrastructure and moving into that business.

“We're building on a long term, proven, feature-rich code-base and bringing it in an efficient, secure and scalable way to the browser alongside Nextcloud,” said Meeks. “Clearly the unique feature is retaining complete control of your data, as well as being able to embed Collabora Online into many other customer solutions that respect your data.”

It’s free for all

For those who don’t know Nextcloud is a fork of ownCloud that was founded by Frank Karlitschek. Unlike ownCloud, Nextcloud has no enterprise-only features. What this essentially means is that anyone can take Nextcloud and CODE and built their own cloud based storage and online office suite service.

Karlitschek explained that “Nextcloud has a really strong community focus. So additionally to collaborating on the Enterprise side and offer Online Office functionality for Enterprise customers we will also provide this for all Nextcloud community users.”

Since it’s free for all, what value does this partnership bring to enterprise customers? Meeks explained, “For home users we want to provide the latest and greatest features. Often Enterprise users value other features such as long term support (three years+), a more relaxed release cadence, a service level agreement, product management and roadmap interaction with a business relationship that helps to drive the product in the best direction for them. I'm excited to add Nextcloud to our partner portfolio to make it easy for people to buy into those key enterprise features directly via Nextcloud.”

And if you are a user of free of cost CODE and want to move to paid, enterprise edition then it can be done very easily ” should be a drop-in replacement; however - for an Enterprise solution for both Nextcloud and Collabora Online you're going to want to get installation help, consultancy, deploy differently to tackle scalability and availability challenges, want that SLA and so on,” explained Meeks.

All of this makes Nextcloud plus CODE a very appealing proposition for individuals, governments and businesses who want complete control over their cloud and online office suite.

Now time will tell if it can really disrupt Microsoft Office 365.

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