I consider myself to be a pretty “neutral” user of computer software. I neither hate nor love Microsoft, I think XP and OSX are both fine OS’es although I prefer XP, etc.
That said, I think one would have to be crazy to think that OpenOffice was equal to Microsoft Office, cost aside. I think that perhaps Office 97 and the current version of OpenOffice are about comparable.
However, the economic question is an important one. If my parents didn’t let me use their licenses for Office or if Office wasn’t available to me at academic pricing you can be sure as hell that I wouldn’t dream of shelling out $500 for the retail price of Office.
Basically, OpenOffice is a perfectly serviceable and nice productivity suite. It isn’t as fast or effective as Word, but 95% of Word’s users or whatever don’t really take much advantage of its full feature set anyway.
Also, Outlook is a program which I might just die without and OpenOffice cannot really compete in that respect although there are programs like Thunderbird available. Still, I think Outlook is a great program.
Finally, I am currenly running the Office 2007 Beta and I think Word 2007 is great. I find the organization to be slightly odd at first but takes about 15-20 minutes to adapt to. Afterwards it seems to be much faster and I’m a huge fan. Outlook 2007 seems to run more slowly without much additional functionality beyond the “To-Do” bar and increased item-tracking, so I’m not too hot on Outlook 2007. Excel seems largely unchanged except for the new “Vista” style interface or whatever it is. PowerPoint seems just as functional as ever with a large number of graphic design improvements (important for presentation software IMHO).
So, to sum up: Office 2007 Beta is currently free, so you might as well run that right now if you’d like. After the Beta period is over, Office might be worth up to $100 or $150 depending on how rich you are and how much you’ll need the software and what you’re trying to do.
It sure as hell isn’t worth the $500 business user retail price.