An independent study has found OpenOffice.org's free office suite to be five times more popular among adult US internet users than Google Docs.
Microsoft Office remains dominant, with 51 percent of US Internet users over age 18 using it, according to a 6-month study conducted by market researcher ClickStream Technologies.
OpenOffice.org was used by 5 percent of people, versus Google Docs' 1 percent, according to the survey of 2,400 users on their home PCs conducted between May and November of this year.
OpenOffice.org was also found to be used more often, 8.7 days, versus 1.5 days; and longer, an average of 9.3 minutes, versus 3.4 minutes for Google Docs, according to ClickStream's panel, which was two-thirds comprised of women.
During a keynote speech at a Gartner conference last month, Ballmer said: "We have better competition today than Google Docs and Spreadsheets. We get more competition from OpenOffice and StarOffice , frankly."
Microsoft is poised to cement that domination with its upcoming Office Web, and online versions of its Exchange and SharePoint products, to be announced on Monday.
The latest version, OpenOffice.org 3.0, had a strong first week, with more than 3 million downloads in that time. After one month, OpenOffice.org 3.0 had been downloaded 10 million times, the group said.
ClickStream also found that 68 percent of Google Docs or Spreadsheets users also used Microsoft Word at least once, "indicating that Google Docs has yet to be considered a stand-alone product by most of its users." In contrast, 74 percent of OpenOffice users didn't use Word at all.
"Although Google Docs and Spreadsheets has been touted as a potential competitor to the Microsoft Office Suite, OpenOffice is currently the more likely app to take that position, possibly indicating the value of offline and local processing enabled by installed applications," said ClickStream.
A Google spokesman said in response to ClickStream's finding, "Google Docs has millions of active users and hosts tens of millions of documents. It has seen strong and steady growth since it launched two years ago as people have increasingly shifted to the cloud in order to access and collaborate on documents online."
ClickStream's figures are not surprising. A NPD Group Inc. survey reported similar findings last year. But the ClickStream findings may arouse some skepticism. The company's CEO, Cameron Turner, formerly worked at Microsoft doing similar market research on Microsoft Office and its competitors. Turner said ClickStream was not paid by Microsoft to conduct this study.
ClickStream's figures for OpenOffice.org include usage of StarOffice, a near-identical version that is sold for $70 (£47) and officially supported by Sun Microsystems. Google began distributing StarOffice via its free Google Pack download service in August 2007. But it recently pulled StarOffice from Google Pack, suggesting that Google is starting to feel competitive with OpenOffice.org.
Other free Microsoft word processers are actually far more popular than OpenOffice.org or Google Docs. Notepad was used by 48 percent of those surveyed by ClickStream, though more sparingly than OpenOffice.org. WordPad, meanwhile, was used by 21 percent of apparently thrifty users.
Fewer than 1 percent of users used Zoho Office, while none of ClickStream's sample used ThinkFree or WriteBoard.