What the heck is happening with OpenOffice? (UPDATE)

What the heck is happening with OpenOffice? (UPDATE)

Summary: Oracle abandoned OpenOffice, but now it seems, thanks to IBM, that it may live on with another organization.


This weekend was filled with rumors about the fate of OpenOffice. Oracle essentially abandoned OpenOffice, after The Document Foundation's LibreOffice fork but rumor has it that IBM wants the project to continue. The big question, which is still unresolved as I write this, is, "How?"

At the moment, almost all of what I have are comments from people close to the matter who are unable to go on the record. That said, here's my current understanding of what's going on with OpenOffice.

First, after Oracle booted out the LibreOffice fork developers from OpenOffice, Oracle still didn't want to invest anymore in OpenOffice. As Edward Screven, Oracle's Chief Corporate Architect, said in April, "Given the breadth of interest in free personal productivity applications and the rapid evolution of personal computing technologies, we believe the OpenOffice.org project would be best managed by an organization focused on serving that broad constituency on a non-commercial basis. We intend to begin working immediately with community members to further the continued success of Open Office. Oracle will continue to strongly support the adoption of open standards-based document formats, such as the Open Document Format (ODF)."

If that sounds like a contradiction in terms: OpenOffice is doing so well that Oracle doesn't want to manage-read pay for it-you're not the only one to see it that way. As Louis Suárez-Potts' OpenOffice's Community Manager and former Oracle staffer, told my buddy Brian Proffitt that no one's really sure what Oracle plans for OpenOffice, or what's more important, what it means for the ODF.

"People like the ODF simply because of its enormously successful flexibility," Suárez-Potts told Proffitt. OpenOffice, LibreOffice, IBM's Symphony and Google Docs all use ODF. But, with Oracle taking a hands off approach to OpenOffice and ODF, what does that mean for the format?

Suárez-Potts saw four possible futures for OpenOffice. Neglect, which is where we're at now, was the worst choice by far. The others were to spin OpenOffice to a new foundation with broad industry support; join it with an already existing open-source foundation with broad corporate support such as the Apache Software Foundation or The Eclipse Foundation; or to join up with the Document Foundation's LibreOffice fork.

It now seems that IBM, which has invested millions in OpenOffice over the years, and uses it as the basis for its Symphony office suite, preferred the option of OpenOffice being spun off to The Apache Foundation. Oracle, which I'm told has contractual obligations to IBM to see that OpenOffice continued to be developed, was fine with this. Unfortunately for IBM and Oracle, my sources tell me that Apache was not so enamored of the idea and has turned it down.

I can see why Apache would want to steer clear of the deal. Apache has not been on good terms with Oracle for several months now after fighting with the company over how Oracle had been managing the Java Community Process. In addition, Apache had also had problems with IBM and Oracle over their support for the open-source Java Standard Edition (SE) OpenJDK over Apache's open-source Java SE Project Harmony. In addition, much of OpenOffice's GPL code isn't compatible with the Apache Foundations' Apache license.

The Document Foundation thinks Oracle should donate OpenOffice's code and intellectual property (IP) to them. Italo Vignoli, a member of the Document Foundation's steering committee, told me, that if Oracle does spin these materials off to another body, "Oracle is missing the opportunity to re-unite the OOo community governance. The Document Foundation remains open to every company and individual that wishes to participate in co-development. There has never been a better time to get involved and advance the state of the art in free-software office suites."

But what will really happen? I don't know.

I do know, based on all the bits and pieces I've been hearing that Oracle, at least, doesn't want to give the OpenOffice to LibreOffice. IBM feels more neutral about it. In the end, I see OpenOffice going to another organization. My best guess at this point is that it will be The Eclipse Foundation. One way or the other, it appears that OpenOffice will continue on.

UPDATE: Sources tell me that Apache has decided to take on OpenOffice. I expect to see the official word come out this week. It may be as early as tomorrow. sjvn--3:42 PM Eastern, May 31, 2011.

Related Stories:

Novell will continue to support LibreOffice

First LibreOffice Release arrives

Oracle, LibreOffice: ideally a co-opetition, not competition

Ubuntu opts for LibreOffice over Oracle's OpenOffice

Microsoft launches attack on OpenOffice

Topics: Oracle, Collaboration, Open Source, Software

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    • RE: What the heck is happening with OpenOffice?

      OpenOffice is a freeware and it should continue its availability to consumers that cannot afford other Office softwares. This is just temporary and soon it will be as good as it was before.

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  • Port Libre Office to Android

    They should port LibreOffice to Android. Take a look at that ultra portable Toshiba Android laptop, kit like that would be the perfect target for a Libre-office.


    I think Oracle are effectively out of the loop now. Open Office without the developers is just a brand name with the main fork being LibreOffice. Not a bad thing given their tricks over Java.

    Who cares if a 'name' goes nowhere, it's just a name, the substance is the app itself.
  • Continue on?

    I didn't even know it was moving.

    But I see a different reason as to why Apache would want to steer clear of the deal - its not worth the time or money to invest in something that's not going to displace MS Office, not to mention competing with LibreOffice, which is pretty much the exact same thing.

    It's not like people are tripping over each other to get it.
    Will Pharaoh
    • Oracle keeps missing the obvious money spinner.

      I thought Oracle owned the money spinner in all this, the support contracts paid for by corporate organisations. Effectively all Oracle had to do was sit back and let TDF develop LibreOffice (and perhaps OpenOffice too) perhaps chucking them a small percentage of income earned from their telephone and other traditional support.
      Money for nothing! and Oracle of all people, missed it.<br><br>It's amazing that such a company as Oracle has failed to take advantage of it's ideal position. <br><br>Regards form<br>Tom <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/happy.gif" alt="happy">
  • The nightmare of &quot;open source&quot;

    The delusional fallacy of the trendy open-source ideology strikes again.

    Open philosophies work as well as alternatives for small projects, especially interchangeable utils.

    Open is not a wise strategy for major projects and core software/libraries.

    It's not ideal using a system which allows everyone including hackers to read the source code either (like PlayStation Network).
    Tim Acheson
    • RE: What the heck is happening with OpenOffice?

      @Tim Acheson
      Umm..the linux kernel is a small project? How about the glibc standard C library as a core library. Eclipse, Java, etc? It totally is a great strategy. Instead of rewriting the same closed stuff over and over and throwing it away, the software continues to exist and is mainained and fine tuned over time. I would say open is not ideal for quick to market big investment competitive leading edge technology. An example is google having to walk a line between open and closed with android in order to be successful quickly.
    • RE: What the heck is happening with OpenOffice?

      @Tim Acheson Isn't the problem here caused entirely by a highly commercial company called Oracle? If there is one thing I can tell you, and one thing you ought to know, it is that Oracle is not primarily an Open-Source organisation.
    • RE: What the heck is happening with OpenOffice?

      @Tim Acheson you seem to be completelty delusional. The only way to make real progress is to work with open solutions, otherwise one are stuck with what arbitrary decisions a company can make, just look upon the insane and completely unnecessary dependency upon Microsoft systems for many products for instance.<br>For my own I wouldn't run any closed source software for anything essential. I wouldn't release any new product/service based upon any closed, proprietary code.
    • RE: What the heck is happening with OpenOffice?

      @Tim Acheson The only really safe software is that software anyone can read. Security by secrecy is not really a very secure concept.
      Apart from that I abandon all hardware where I can not get decent documentation and where I can not run software of my choice.

      To do as Sony has done is unforgivable and is simply a form of unacceptable dictatorship. Sony is after all their misdoings a company that only deserves to die. They have in many aspects become seemingly much worse than Microsoft.
  • MS Office is king

    MS Office is the market-leader, and it's the best by far. OpenOffice (RIP) never came close. If it had, it wouldn't be the running joke that it is.

    I had Office preinstalled on my latest Windows 7 tablet. I use Office Web Apps on SkyDrive daily. I laugh at the so called alternatives.
    Tim Acheson
    • And we laugh at you

      @Tim Acheson

      and your rather juvenile and plain wrong views and opinions on these issues.
      • The truth is juvenile really now?

        @Economister Microsoft Office is the best, period there is no denying it. You are just being a loyalist open source knuckle head about it. Sometime you need to accept when something is the truth.
        Mr. Dee
      • RE: What the heck is happening with OpenOffice?

        @Mr. Dee (comment below)<br>It could be it's best for this quite quirky way of working (some pieces of the suite makes sense, but others are inefficient). I've changed work and partially it means I have to work a lot with MS Office. Is it in my opinion great? Not really, but honestly the scenario now is that I constantly switch between MS Office and LibreOffice (on Windows PCs), since neither is perfect, but better in some aspects. Therefore I suggest that anyone proclaiming that MS Office is the best, meant as a truth, doesn't do oneself a favour, since such reasoning results in accepting a lower bar. <br><br>Some design decisions in MS Office are good, but others are weird. Secondly I've rarely encountered a piece of software of this dignity as unstable as MS Office for a long time. Several documents created in MS Office 2007 makes version 2010 crash constantly, which means I rescue a lot of documents in LibreOffice. Sure could be your opinion about "best", as in a comparison, is fair enough, but it for sure needs to become a lot better and at least stable when dealing with its own proprietary formats.<br><br>About the main topic of the article: I don't know what it means yet and hence wait for more information.
      • RE: What the heck is happening with OpenOffice?


        Try some logic Economister. OO is just Office 97 - well almost. The current MS Office is much better than Office 97, therefore OO is worse than MS Office. In fact, OO is even worse than Office 97, as they didn't quite manage to clone it all.
    • RE: What the heck is happening with OpenOffice?

      @Tim Acheson Good Lord, do you use Windows, that explains a lot. I mean about your antipathy to OpenSource.
      • Your own answer explains a lot

        @ampers@... You criticize anyone using MS products, showing your own closed mind. The closed mind destroys your credibility.

        Personally I use Open Source where it makes sense, but commercial products where Open Source cannot stand on its own. The office suite is an area where Open Office / Libre Office does not compete, so I pay the piper and buy MS Office.

        Do yourself a favour and open your mind to the truth that Open Source isn?t the end all solution to anyone?s problems. Sometimes The behemoth like Microsoft gets it right, where the geeks contributing to an Open Source project just don?t understand the user needs or have the resources to pull it off.

        Open and Libre Office are still a decade behind Microsoft.

        We did a head to head comparison with the goal of dumping MS Office, and guess what? MS not only won the comparison, but did so convincingly! No question which is cheaper to use and it?s not Open Source in this case.
      • when all you know is a hammer...


        A long-established cabinetry and carpentry company, having relied on hammer and nail technology for decades, tested carpenter's nails against wood screws, and unsurprisingly found -- regardless of the screw supporters arguments and practical experience -- that when all is said and done, nails are still far superior to screws. The biggest deficiencies were that screws were harder to drive and mangled the wood, and even worse, tended to badly break their nail-guns.
      • RE: What the heck is happening with OpenOffice?

        Funny, the company that did the comparison netted over $10 billion US last year, has over 40,000 employees and takes software very seriously. The team that performed the test was skewed towards Open Source and desperately wanted to dump MS, but just couldn't justify it.

        Again, Open Source fans make assumptions that are completely moronic (that nail comparison thing). Yes we kept MS, even though we could have saved several million$$ by dumping MS. MS is just that much better.

        You might want to get a life, crawl out from under that rock, or something similar. You might even want to try MS and spend some time learning an advanced system instead of one that is "Good Enough".