Choice is great. It's one of the key selling points of open source -- a guarantee that no one company can monopolize a software category, at least illegally.
It's what enabled the first official release today of LibreOffice 3.3, a version of OpenOffice sponsored by the recently formed Document Foundation. The foundation was formed in September by many leaders of the OpenOffice project, who were not too happy with the way megacorporation Oracle was running the show.
Oracle bought certain rights to OpenOffice assets when it acquired Sun -- but not the code itself. Again, therein lies the beauty of open source. Microsoft's multimillions of Office users and developers worldwide never had such rights.
Nevertheless, on this milestone, it's important to underscore the need for Oracle and the Document Foundation to cooperate. Both, after all, have common rivals, and though each entity has different reasons for backing OpenOffice, both are underdogs in the fight.
Microsoft Office still overwhelmingly dominates the industry. And even if its time is coming, Google Docs is just emerging.
Co-opetition (cooperative competition) is great. It's natural for the Document Foundation and Oracle to engage in a bit of infighting. But let's keep it to a minimum.
Both parties have an important part to play in the office suite/service battle, and the sum of the two is much stronger than one or the other. Having two sponsors behind the project -- one proprietary and one purely open source -- gives OpenOffice the big bucks and competitive positioning it needs to go up against Microsoft and Google.
Oracle has strong brand identity in the corporate world. I bet millions of corporate users and CIOs are made aware of the existence of OpenOffice and influenced by Oracle's promotion of OpenOffice on Java downloads daily.
Additionally, the creation of the Document Foundation -- led by the top execs and developers behind OpenOffice, as well as open source leaders FSF, Red Hat, Novell and Canonical -- gives the OpenOffice movement real clout and gives corporations and users the reassurance that there will be choice and development according to user needs.
Most importantly, the two OpenOffice backers must cooperate on the OpenOffice.next service. Office software will be used for some time to come but Office services are what's next. Microsoft and Google know this.
On this day, it's important for OpenOffice backers to realize who the real rivals are and what the next generation goal is.