OpenOffice denies rift with Sun

The project leader of the organisation behind the open source productivity suite has refuted a report claiming that he wants Sun to give up control of the project

Louis Suárez-Potts, the project leader of OpenOffice.org (OOo), has denied reports that Sun should give up control of the open source project it founded.

On Wednesday, vnunet.com published an interview with Suarez-Potts where he said that if Sun donated the code from OpenOffice.org to an independent foundation, this would help attract additional developers.

"In an ideal world open source should not be dependent on the capriciousness of any one corporation," he said, according to Vnunet.com. "A foundation does not isolate a project from any one corporation, it provides some distance. But the reality is that it requires Sun to give up the intellectual property to a foundation. That's a fairly large obstacle."

But, on Thursday Suarez-Potts claimed that his comments had been taken out of context.

"I did not argue in the interview that OpenOffice.org wants Sun to give up control of OOo (not that it really has it) nor did I argue that I, personally, wished it," he wrote in his blog. "Rather, I argued that a foundation that would hold copyright of the code could make sense, especially if it brought in the contributions of a company like IBM, which has yet to contribute to the community."

Simon Phipps, Sun's chief open source officer, rebutted the calls for an independent foundation, pointing out that it has already freed up the intellectual property by making it available under an open source licence.

"While the subject of a foundation has been raised, the fact is that Sun has already 'let go' of OpenOffice.org by purchasing StarDivision in 1999 and releasing the source code to StarOffice as free/open source software under the LGPL, making the source code available to any developer," he said, according to a posting on Andy Updegrove's standards blog.

Although Suarez-Potts feels that his comments have been misunderstood, people have spoken before of the tension between Sun, with its primarily commercial needs, and independent open source developers working within the OpenOffice community.

Sun has contributed and continues to contribute a great deal to the project — it originally donated the source code of the project in 2000 and has employed many developers to work on the project.

But, Sun has been gently criticised by various members of the OOo community in the past, who have claimed that it has too much control.

Last year, OOo developer Michael Meeks told ZDNet UK that Sun does a lot of valuable work on the open source application, but claimed the company has too much control over the direction and release schedule of OOo as it employs many developers working on OpenOffice.org.

Arthur Buijs, the co-lead of the OpenOffice.org's Dutch native language project, said at a conference last year that Sun is not transparent enough about decisions made regarding the project, although he added that the situation is slowly improving.

"There are some problems in the community and they are to do with transparency," Buijs said in a talk at the Holland Open Software Conference in May 2005.

"One of the things is that a lot of decisions are made inside Sun and communicated too late to community. Not that they hide things from the community — Sun has good intentions," he said.

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