I was first introduced to the concept of Open Source Software (OSS) during my technology course with Dr. Bishop. At that time we were exploring OSS Catalogs for library use. In this course I learned about OpenOffice.org
For those that don't know what OSS is, it is software developed for free public use. In this case, OpenOffice. org is a free office software suite that includes programs for word processing, spreadsheets, graphics and presentations. One could liken it to the well known expensive Microsoft Office. It's free to download, free to update, and free to share.
The education implications for the use of this software are huge. First of all, it's free. That means that districts who can't afford to purchase Microsoft Office, or can't afford to upgrade to the latest version of the software, can now ensure that their office software suite is available to all and up to date at all times. For students, this means that they can have an office software suite on their home computers for personal use. OSS is an equalizer, providing software in different languages and eliminating the issues of students not having the same version to work on at home.
One of the things that I really loved about this software was the quality. It's compatible with most operating systems and can work with most of the files that you already have. It provides you with most of the features that the current Microsoft Office software does, as well as a few new features.
Of course, as with all software, there can always be bugs. I know that when I have used Google Docs in the past there have been formatting issues with some of my PowerPoint presentations. Of course with OSS people are always tweaking and improving the software at no cost to the users. One of the big dangers that I see with using something like OpenOffice.org is the lack of guaranteed support. Since this is community developed software, support for issues is also provided by the community. This means that you may encounter a problem for which there is current support for.
There are two main differences between Google Docs and OpenOffice that should be noted. First, OpenOffice is software that you download onto your personal computer whereas Google Docs is done online in the computing cloud. Second, OpenOffice is OSS whereas Google is not. Currently this means that OpenOffice boasts more features and is developing at a more rapid pace.