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Despite rising interest in Google Docs and other Microsoft Office rivals, actual implementation of web-based and desktop alternatives remains relatively low among businesses. But their growth is still impacting Microsoft, as companies delay Microsoft Office upgrades to consider alternatives or use the threat of adopting them to negotiate better licensing deals with Microsoft.

Those are among the findings from a Forrester Research study released this morning, assessing the state of the global market for productivity software and online collaboration tools. The independent study is based on interviews with 150 IT decision-makers.

“Adoption of alternatives relative to Microsoft Office is paltry, but interest remains high, with more than a quarter of companies actively looking at or experimenting with web-based alternatives,” writes Forrester’s Matthew Brown in the report. “While the free versions of these programs make it easy for companies to try, concerns over user acceptance and compatibility with Microsoft Office file formats continue to hinder broader deployments.”

Here’s one of the summary charts from the report.

Even though Microsoft Office continues to lead by a wide margin, the study underscores how much the market has been impacted by the rise of the alternatives. At one point nearly a decade ago, some market research firms stopped tracking the productivity market because Microsoft Office had become so dominant.

Other takeaways from the Forrester report: In many large businesses, complete replacement of Microsoft Office may be unrealistic, but Forrester sees Google Docs, Zoho, OpenOffice and other alternatives making inroads in specific segments of the workforce that may not need all the features of a full-fledged Microsoft Office installation.

Web-based alternatives such as Google Docs have fewer actual implementations right now among the surveyed companies — 3 percent, compared with 5 percent for OpenOffice, according to the study. However, the pipeline tells a different story, with 59 percent either actively looking at or piloting/experimenting with web-based productivity solutions, compared with 16 percent for OpenOffice.

Update: A reader points out the omission of LibreOffice from my summary, and in fact Forrester does make a point of mentioning it as a rising alternative. Another excerpt from the study …

Although Oracle has yet to announce whether it will turn over control of OpenOffice to The Document Foundation or retain the brand, it’s clear the momentum is behind LibreOffice as an open source alternative. In addition to contributing to LibreOffice, Novell offers support for its own build. Rather than sell it as a standalone product, Novell expects to distribute LibreOffice primarily as part of its SUSE Linux desktop product and Novell Open Workgroup Suite collaboration platform.

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