Putting the spin on IBM

Summary:Maybe I'm imagining it, but there seems to be a concerted effort on the part of Sun and OpenOffice.org team members lately to push the meme that IBM should be criticized for its lack of involvement with OpenOffice.

Maybe I'm imagining it, but there seems to be a concerted effort on the part of Sun and OpenOffice.org team members lately to push the meme that IBM should be criticized for its lack of involvement with OpenOffice.org. Techworld.com quotes Sun's Simon Phipps saying "ask IBM why it uses OpenOffice but doesn't contribute to it." OpenOffice.org's Louis Suarez-Potts is also quoted, specifically singling out IBM to donate developer time to the OpenOffice.org project.

While I don't want to detract from the OpenOffice.org project in any way, I find this a bit fishy. First of all, why pick on IBM specifically? Sure, IBM is a big supporter of Linux, but that doesn't make Big Blue responsible for supporting every project that runs on Linux. I think it'd be great if IBM did contribute to OpenOffice.org, but I'm not sure that the project is critical to IBM's plans for making money with Linux. Should we also suppose that Sun is devoting ample developer time to each and every open source project that Sun uses? Browsing the Samba archives, I see several participants from IBM, but a quick search doesn't turn up any Sun employees. (Note: I have not exhaustively scoured the lists, and some Sun employees may be on the list using different e-mail addresses.)

There's also the issue of OpenOffice.org licensing. OpenOffice.org is distributed under a dual-license scheme -- the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) and the Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL), and the project requires any contributor to give Sun a joint copyright assignment, therefore allowing Sun to suck in contributions to OpenOffice.org to StarOffice -- the proprietary version of OpenOffice.org. Is it any surprise that IBM isn't chomping at the bit to do some of Sun's development for them?

If Sun wants real community support for OpenOffice.org, they need to drop the joint copyright assignment requirement before they expect IBM or other vendors to donate significant time and effort to the project. Otherwise, Phipps may as well be complaining that IBM isn't helping to develop Sun's StarOffice rather than trying to suggest that IBM is somehow shirking its civic duty because it hasn't poured development funds into OpenOffice.org.

In short, this seems like petty politics on Sun's part. I doubt Sun or members of the OpenOffice.org project expect IBM to suddenly make OpenOffice.org a priority just because they complain about IBM's lack of involvement. From this perspective, it would seem that Sun is just trying to sling a little mud IBM's way. Perhaps Sun needs someone new to pick fights with, since they made nice with Microsoft last year.

What do you think? Should IBM be putting money into OpenOffice.org, or is Sun just trying to stir things up? Tell me in TalkBack.

Topics: IBM

About

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is the community manager for openSUSE, a community Linux distro sponsored by Novell. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist primarily covering the Linux and FOSS beat, and wrote for a number of publications, such as Linux Magazine, Linux.com, Sys Admin, UnixReview.com, IBM developer... Full Bio

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