Earlier in the year, ThinkFree offered bloggers a free version of its portable office software. I passed on that offer, but when it came around again last week, I said I’d give it a go. I remembered that Ismael Ghalimi has been a big fan of ThinkFree for a while now and thought I recalled the offer for the free software had something to do with Ismael’s valiant crusade to free us all of our hard drives. For him and for Brian Solis (handles PR for ThinkFree), who wrote a blog post today that was just poetry to my blogger reading eyes, I decided I better start really experimenting with ThinkFree and then let you all know what I think of it.
First of all, ThinkFree basically has cloned Microsoft Office, Excel, and PowerPoint and is offering these common office applications essentially free if you use the online version, or for about $50 if you use the portable version, which I was sent from the PR firm. I believe there is a server and desktop version, as well. ThinkFree’s bizarro version of Microsoft’s products are Write, Calc, and Show. I launched all three applications, and it was uncanny how similar they are. BUT– at a fraction of the cost– if not for free. What’s not to love??? As I trolled around the web, I found more advantages of ThinkFree over Microsoft, such as their variety of choice in viewers, plug-ins, APIs, widgets, and even the ability to download the apps to your ipod. Wow. Very cool.
Now granted. I don’t pass myself off as a product reviewer for a moment. But as a mere mortal user who writes documents, uses spreadsheets casually, and creates simple powerpoint presentations, ThinkFree can satisfy all my basic needs and more. Why would I want to enslave myself to Microsoft Office for these simple apps? I actually bristle when Office makes me do something annoying these days, like I saw in this post on Outlook archiving while trolling the web.
Is ThinkFree the web 2.0 killer app for the Enterprise? Probably not, unfortunately. In an interview with ThinkFree’s Jonathan Crow, Director of Marketing on the Under the Radar Blog, Crow is asked about his target customer:
Who IS your target customer? Who is NOT your target customer?
Of our over 250,000 ThinkFree Online users we estimate that roughly 35% are SMB users, 30% are educational users, 15% are individuals within Enterprise organizations, and the remaining 20% are consumers.
What we’ve been seeing in large enterprises, is painfully slow adoption to web 2.0 alternatives, but as products like ThinkFree are mind-numbingly easy to use, familiar, and either free or so cheap it’s not worth expensing, we may start seeing user-revolt-creep start infiltrating the walled gardens of enterprise command central. I guess it’s just a matter of time. The best imagery I heard recently along these lines was Euan Semple‘s description of unleashing “a thousand Trojan mice” into the enterprise and seeing what happens. ThinkFree is a killer mouse that could roar.
I’m a convert. Give it a try. I’d be very surprised if you’re not as amazed as I am at how perfectly the ThinkFree team has replicated the Microsoft user experience with none of the Microsoft baggage.