Does OpenOffice have a future?

Does OpenOffice have a future?

Summary: The Apache Software Foundation has made OpenOffice a top-level project but will that be enough to make OpenOffice matter? Should OpenOffice remain an independent open-source project?

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A few days ago the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) announced that Apache OpenOffice had graduated from the Apache Incubator to become a Top-Level Project (TLP). That's nice but will be it enough to make OpenOffice matter given that its LibreOffice fork has stolen much of its thunder?

Sure, it's nice as Andrea Pescetti, VP of Apache OpenOffice, said "The OpenOffice graduation is the official recognition that the project is now able to self-manage not only in technical matters, but also in community issues. The 'Apache Way' and its methods, such as taking every decision in public with total transparency, have allowed the project to attract and successfully engage new volunteers, and to elect an active and diverse Project Management Committee that will be able to guarantee a stable future to Apache OpenOffice." Really? Why?

Seriously? Why? True, OpenOffice was an important open-source project, but the keyword there is "was." When it was first created as Star Office by Star Division in the 1990s, it was a vital early open-source office suite. Then, after Star Division was acquired by Sun n 1999, its transformation into OpenOffice made it for many years, the most important open-source office suite.

Sun neglected the project though, and after Oracle acquired Sun in April 2009, the core OpenOffice developers, who had been none-too happy anyway, started to fork the project into LibreOffice. They would have been happy to work with Oracle, but Oracle wanted nothing to do with LibreOffice, and as it quickly turned out, OpenOffice. By late May 2011, Oracle had abandoned OpenOffice.

In the meantime, LibreOffice had been doing exceptionally well. Major Linux distributors, such as Ubuntu, had made LibreOffice its main office suite choice. Other groups, ranging from Intel to the Free Software Foundation have thrown their support to LibreOffice.

IBM, which first strongly supported OpenOffice no longer formally supports OpenOffice as an IBM product, Symphony. IBM software architect, Rob Weir, states, however, that "IBM took its resources it was putting on Symphony and put those resources onto Apache OpenOffice. We also hired a team of ex-Sun OpenOffice developers in Hamburg, with decades of experience with this code base. They have worked on the Apache project since last October, and continue to work on it, along with their colleagues on from the Symphony team. We have a large and substantial investment in this project, including programmers, QA and UI designers. They are working openly on the Apache mailing lists."  

True, under Apache OpenOffice is still improving, but most of those improvements seem to be coming from the LibreOffice code-base. So what exactly is the point of continuing OpenOffice? Darned if I know.

Take a look at OpenOffice and LibreOffice's plans for their next versions. You'll find the same laundry list of features: better Office 2007-2013 OpenXML format support, and versions for tablets and the cloud.

In the meantime, after years of resistance, Microsoft says it's finally supporting Open Document Format (ODF) 1.2 with read, edit and save support in Office 2013. This means that there will finally be a single, high-end format that MS-Office, OpenOffice, and LibreOffice will all fully support. If Microsoft delivers, this could make both LibreOffice and OpenOffice much more attractive to end-users.

I have a modest proposal: Instead of wasting time and energy on duplicating work why doesn't Apache join up with LibreOffice's parent organization The Document Foundation and work together on a single open-source office suite? And, in particular why not work together on ODF and OpenXML support? Wouldn't that be best for all OpenOffice/LibreOffice developers and users? I think so.

Updated with Rob Wier comment, October 29th, 2012.

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Topics: Open Source, Cloud, Enterprise Software, Tablets, PCs

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44 comments
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  • IBM support of Apache OpenOffice

    You claim, that IBM is "no longer putting significant resources behind OpenOffice". This is entirely false. Your sole citation for this statement is a link a previous article of yours, where you quote an IBM blog article which also contradicts your assertion: "Our energy from here is going into the Apache OpenOffice project".

    Is this really so hard to understand? IBM took its resources it was putting on Symphony and put those resources onto Apache OpenOffice. We also hired a team of ex-Sun OpenOffice developers in Hamburg, with decades of experience with this code base. They have worked on the Apache project since last October, and continue to work on it, along with their colleagues on from the Symphony team. We have a large and substantial investment in this project, including programmers, QA and UI designers. They are working openly on the Apache mailing lists.

    I'm flabbergasted that journalistic standards at ZNDnet have dropped to the point that you can spread such FUD with zero facts to support you. If you cannot support this claim (and you can't), I'd like a retraction.
    rcweir
    • Speaking of Standards...

      @reweir - who wrote, "We also hired a team of ex-Sun OpenOffice developers in Hamburg".

      Not disagreeing with you... but your comment reads like something coming from an IBM insider or affiliate. If true, then you should have stated your relationship with IBM in your counter point above.
      ReadandShare
      • Oops...

        @rcweir. Sorry for the typo.
        ReadandShare
      • Whois Rob Weir

        http://incubator.apache.org/openofficeorg/people.html

        http://www.robweir.com/blog/who-is-rob-weir

        Looks like Mr. Weir does know a bit about IBM and its involvement with OpenOffice.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • Libre O succeeds OO; Apache O succeds Symphony O

          An IBM supported Office suite has been a separate project for as long as Open & Libre Office have been around.

          There were these two once:
          Open Office and IBM AMI Office
          These were succeeded by:
          Open Office and IBM Symphony Office
          These, in turn, were succeeded by:
          Libre Office and Apache Office

          So, why the caterwauling about IBM sponsored Apache Office being a seperate project from Libre Office? That the 2 are derived from a common code base makes for recombination (borrowing of one another's features and code) and improves the chances of their convergence which is a damned sight better than when the separate projects were Open Office and AMI Office.
          ranjit_mathews@...
    • My last post blocked due to "profanities"

      Okay, my last post was blocked due to "profanities"....

      Trying to post in pieces to catch where they thing the swearing is....

      I'm starting to self linking a bit more - some ZDNet authors have gotten into this self-linking scheme, where they cite themselves as some sort of authoritative source. It's a bit worrying, as it tends to perpetuate rumors, myths, and falsehoods.
      CobraA1
    • 2nd piece

      It's also sad when they cite a source that says the exact opposite of what they've claimed - I've caught ZDNet doing that before. Worse, people will often buy it, thinking that the link must go to something authoritative without checking it out.
      CobraA1
    • 3rd piece

      The standards been low for a while. I personally don't expect them to really improve unless somebody with a lot of clout pushes them to do so.
      CobraA1
    • last piece 1

      My hopes aren't high on a retraction.
      CobraA1
    • last piece 2

      Sadly, retractions aren't common in journalism.
      CobraA1
    • last piece 3

      The only comfort you really have is that it'll be off the front page soon enough,
      CobraA1
    • last piece 4

      as ZDNet is far more interested
      CobraA1
    • quant-ity is banned!

      in quant-ity than quality. The article will be lucky to last more than a weekday.

      And hey, guess what, quant-ity is banned, probably due to t-i-t being considered "profane." So a common word is banned just because it happens to have a banned letter combination.

      Sigh.

      Yeah, another common theme is that ZDNet never quite got the Talkback system right.
      CobraA1
    • Everything I'm trying to say in one post

      Now that I know which word is banned, here's my actual reply:

      "Your sole citation for this statement is a link a previous article of yours"

      I'm starting to see that a bit more - some ZDNet authors have gotten into this self-linking scheme, where they cite themselves as some sort of authoritative source. It's a bit worrying, as it tends to perpetuate rumors, myths, and falsehoods.

      It's also sad when they cite a source that says the exact opposite of what they've claimed - I've caught ZDNet doing that before. Worse, people will often buy it, thinking that the link must go to something authoritative without checking it out.

      "I'm flabbergasted that journalistic standards at ZDNet have dropped to the point that you can spread such FUD with zero facts to support you."

      Well, they've been low for a while. I personally don't expect them to really improve unless somebody with a lot of clout pushes them to do so.

      "I'd like a retraction."

      My hopes aren't high on this. Sadly, retractions aren't common in journalism. The only comfort you really have is that it'll be off the front page soon enough, as ZDNet is far more interested in quant-ity than quality. The article will be lucky to last more than a weekday.
      CobraA1
    • For now, yes

      Sure, IBM this week is supporting OpenOffice, next week who knows. Expecting IBM to have a clue of what they're doing is a hopeless cause. Expecting IBM to have any sense of consistency is also a hopeless cause. Of course, if *everyone* else in the world was using LibreOffice and no one at all was using OO, IBM would use it just to be stubbornly incompatible. For certain they prefer the license in OO because they can take any bits they *think* might be useful, and keep them all to themselves.
      jelabarre
  • Isn't more choice always better?

    Well, one of the most overused arguments I've heard Linux users make is that more choice is always better.

    So who am I to argue? It's overused, so it must be true. Right?
    CobraA1
    • Isn't a relevant and thoughtful post always better?

      Apparently not around here.
      D.T.Long
      • Never really has been around here.

        Never really has been around here. As rcweir points out, even the article itself is far from relevant and thoughtful.

        If you're looking for relevant and thoughtful, you're reading the wrong electronic magazine.

        Frankly, the whole "more choice is better" argument is always what I get when I point out the fact that fragmentation is part of what's killing Linux on the desktop.
        CobraA1
    • Re: Isn't more choice always better?

      Of course it is. But it's no fun when it's so one-sided.

      Microsoft's mighty struggles to hold back the Android tide, on the other hand, still have some entertainment value, if only because of the huge amounts of money the company keeps throwing into them.
      ldo17
  • Join forces!

    It would be great for the users if they all are working together in one FLO office suite.
    Gonzalo_VC