Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Oracle Frees OpenOffice.org, Again

  • Jun 01 / 2011
  • 9
technology

Oracle Frees OpenOffice.org, Again

Sun Micrososystems freed OpenOffice.org a decade ago but kept tight controls that stifled the project. Oracle bought Sun but now has seen the light and has transferred the assets to the Apache Foundation.

While the Apache Foundation has some conflict with Free Software in its licensing, ASL is a Free Software licence and The Document Foundation and The Apache Foundation are in contact about future relationships.
“”We welcome highly-focused, emerging projects from individual contributors, as well as those with robust developer communities, global user bases, and strong corporate backing,” added Jagielski. “The ASF’s organizational, legal, financial, and infrastructure support gives incubating projects the ability to provide valuable software to millions of users without having to worry about liability. Today’s submission of the OpenOffice.org code base is testament to our track record for successfully incubating highly-established, well-respected projects such as Apache SpamAssassin and Apache Subversion.”

Incubating projects (known as “podlings”) benefit from hands-on mentorship from other Apache contributors and are guided on an array of processes and principles within the Foundation, including adopting the Apache voting structure and growing a vibrant and diverse community. Jim Jagielski is the proposed podling mentor for the OpenOffice.org community during the incubation process.”

see Incubation at Apache: What’s it all about?

According to the announcement on TDF-announce, “The Document Foundation would welcome the reuniting of the OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice projects into a single community of equals in the wake of the departure of Oracle. The step Oracle has taken today was no doubt taken in good faith, but does not appear to directly achieve this goal. The Apache community, which we respect enormously, has very different expectations and norms – licensing, membership and more – to the existing OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice projects. We regret the missed opportunity but are committed to working with all active community members to devise the best possible future for LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org. “

When all the dust settles, I expect OpenOffice.org and/or LibreOffice to grow in usability and reliability as a result of this move to the extent that Oracle was holding things back and to the extent that a wide variety of contributors can now more freely do so. It will be interesting to see how IBM and other big players who were associated with OpenOffice.org respond.

It would probably have been smoothest for the contribution to have gone to The Document Foundation but that does not seem to have been a concern of Oracle… The world needs productivity software for offices and will make it one way or another. The worst case scenario now is that the fork will become permanent and two diverse products will arise. The best case is that a merger will take place, preferably as OpenOffice.org reborn or as LibreOffice. The Apache Foundation houses a lot of projects but none are in the face of users on the desktop. This could be an opportunity to diversify but it is a large bite. The worst case is not that bad, either. Competition is good.

UPDATE Here’s Oracle and IBM’s comments.

“The Apache Software Foundation’s model makes it possible for commercial and individual volunteer contributors to collaborate on open source product development.” — Luke Kowalski, vice president, Oracle Corporate Architecture Group.
Ha!. The same could be said for any other FLOSS licensing, including the GPL. Linus has no problem with individuals and corporations contributing code. What’s this about? It seems petty to me. ASF uses several software licences to distribute software. Presumably, if Oracle owns the copyright on everything in OpenOffice.org, they can just change it to something ASF likes, but OpenOffice.org has many licences and many components are not owned by Oracle so it may be something that throws a wrench into the gears to maximize angst.

SJVN has more on that… Even the trademark has gone to ASF. I wonder how long it will take to figure out the licensing.

UPDATE Ars Technica has a very comprehensive article about all of this.

see Ryan Paul – Ars Technica – Oracle spurns LibreOffice, wants to give OOo to Apache Foundation

9 Comments

  1. Contrarian

    It is always a trade-off as to which end of the wire should do the computing. There is a cost for doing it locally, there is an aggregated cost for a server big enough to do it remotely and responsively, there is a cost for the network bandwidth needed for a lot of data flow, too.

    I think that people get comfortable with various architectures and tend to think in terms of what they know about. PCs doing a lot of local work were at one time the best way since people were frequently disconnected from the network. That is not so true today and people are becoming comfortable with needing a network now that it is highly available.

    You can go to a MacDonald’s in Bahrain and Skype to your sweetie in Pensacola without drawing too much attention these days. No charges, either except the price of a burger and fries and drink. The smart phone apps rely pretty much on being able to connect to a web service designed to support the app. With the clouds rolling in, this will only get more and more into the always on, always connected mode.

  2. oldman

    “Why use an office suite? Use a browser. Put the calculation, data, formatting, etc. on the server.”

    Because there are just some tasks that are more efficiently left in the users hands, especially if those users are “power users” who are regularly slicing and dicing data, and who simply can’t wait for the “experts” (who are usually very overworked) to get around to servicing their specialized requests.

    “Modern thinking in IT is to push complexity to the server where experts can take care of it and to leave the simplest user interface on the client machines.”

    That same modern thinking includes The charge to also maintain the user user empowerment that personal desktop computers have provided for 20+ years now if at all possible. That is why the 20Mb accountants spreadsheet was replace with Office based plugins that went against the now server based accounting system. Even this transition had to be accomplished gradually with a lot of tact, because one does not just rip the desktop off of a senior financial analysts desk and replace it with a modernized dumb terminal (aka web browser) unless the tools provide are what is required by the users.

  3. Robert Pogson

    Why use an office suite? Use a browser. Put the calculation, data, formatting, etc. on the server.

    That gets rid of the huge task of maintaining all that software on many PCs. PHP is widely used for that kind of thing but any programming language would work. I like to use Pascal. Others use Perl, Ruby or Python.

    Modern thinking in IT is to push complexity to the server where experts can take care of it and to leave the simplest user interface on the client machines.

  4. Contrarian

    “There must be a hundred other programming languages suitable for the task that do not lock businesses in to M$.”

    The key is that the language has the ability to call formatting, display, and calculation functions from an office suite. AFAIK, that is java and managed .NET code versions of C++, C#, J# and F#. Do the scripting languages used with Linux have the interface call capability vis-a-vis Open Office?

    The lock-in occurs because a user becomes familiar with the techniques required and also builds up a portfolio of past solutions that are often drawn upon when creating a new program.

  5. Robert Pogson

    To the extent that VB is seen as a mission-critical tool by some businesses, they have locked themselves in. However many businesses do not have any capacity to write VB nor a need to do it and OpenOffice.org-calc will do just fine. Most PCs are in use by small and medium-sized businesses and consumers, not big businesses.

    I expect that even big businesses, finding themselves straddling the globe, will not want to bother with special client applications and will use something in the cloud sooner or later. It’s just more efficient to use web applications, centralizing the data. It could be that VB will continue to be used to funnel data to the cloud but if a rewrite is needed for any reason there are many other ways to do things. I expect many will trade the cost of the next round of licences to M$ for a rewrite to an open system where VB becomes irrelevant. There must be a hundred other programming languages suitable for the task that do not lock businesses in to M$.

  6. Contrarian

    It is hard to iamagine anything more ho-hum than some initiative in word processing or spreadsheet software. In a world that has moved to IM and tweets and such for day to day activities and texting seems to be more popular than actual phone calls, most consumers are unlikely to care one whit.

    In the office, at least ones where I have been working, new documents are a minor issue. Reports, on the other hand, are big deals and often consist of some MS Office functions glued together with .NET programs. Those are the ones that aren’t legacy items that used VB instead. Documents produced from the reports end up as PDF files that everyone views using the freebie Adobe viewer.

    Open Office was once an important FOSS project, I know, but today it is like re-inventing the wheel and always seeming to have some flat spots to spoil the effort.

  7. Richard Chapman

    So what’s the community supposed to do now, wait a year for OpenOffice to catch up to LibreOffice? I read Rob Weir’s announcement of OpenOffice’s acceptance into Apache.org. There was no mention of the Document Foundation or LibreOffice. He was called on it in most of the comments including one from Jeremy Allison. I’ve been reading Rob’s blog for years now. This is the first time he’s disappointed me.

  8. oldman

    Smart.

    They allow for the possibility that people can make money on Openoffice without giving up their soource code.

    Let a thousand commercial binaries bloom!

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