A lot of people switched to OpenOffice when it appeared, not the least because you have to pay for StarOffice while OpenOffice comes at no cost. For my part, I was happy to pay the cost of StarOffice, and in the early days of OpenOffice, I was happy not to have new versions to deal with too often.
However, times change, and I've decided to switch to Novell's version of OpenOffice 2.0.2 (the latest "standard" OpenOffice is 2.1). There are two reasons for choosing the Novell version. One is that I run SUSE Linux on my systems, so the Novell version is what I get by default with that distribution. However, I'm also running the Novell version for Windows, and that brings me to the other reason, Novell's enhanced support for Microsoft Office documents.
I know Novell has come under a lot of criticism for its recent agreement with Microsoft, and I'm sure I don't fully understand all of its ramifications. However, one thing that I definitely like is Novell's commitment to enhance OpenOffice's ability to work with the Microsoft Office document formats.
Primarily, my interest is interoperability. So, while I use OpenOffice's native OpenDocument format a lot, I also have to use the Microsoft Office formats because many people, including my partners, use Microsoft Office and its document formats. Some people are forced to use to Microsoft Office, but many are very happy users of it, and that isn't going to change quickly. Support for Micrsoft Office formats will be important for quite a while yet. StarOffice/OpenOffice has always done a reasonable job of opening Microsoft Office documents, but tables and text boxes have often caused me problems, so there has definitely been room for improvement.
Let me add that I think it is just as great that an OpenDocument (ODF) importer/exporter add-in for Microsoft Office is being produced. For OpenOffice users and Microsoft Office users to be able to read and write both formats easily will be great, that is what interoperability is all about.
I remember attending a briefing, some years ago now, when Borland introduced its developer tools for Linux. At the time, I was working as a Java developer. I talked to a number of the attendees who were more involved with Linux that I was then, and I was taken aback by their attitude to interoperability. In particular, they thought cross-platform development environments like Java were a waste of time, because the solution was just to run Linux everywhere. That isn't interoperability. That's the same kind of maniacal empire building strategy that Microsoft has so often been accused of. It was frustrating for me to realise in that moment that the Linux bigots were every bit as myopic as the Windows bigots.
Not me, I like interoperability, being able to achieve the same thing across multiple systems, giving users some choices as to which hardware and software they can use to get the job done. So I applaud Novell for helping the cause of interoperability, at a time when I know they are getting bad press for other aspects of their deal with Microsoft.