The last week has seen a lot of speculation about the future of Sun's open source projects now that the company has been absorbed by Oracle. Most of the fallout from Oracle's latest acquisition falls outside my realm of expertise or even interest. Some of my university readers are certainly going to be curious (OK, some university IT folks and even the occasional K-12 shop that has invested in Sun technologies are downright nervous). However, I have to say that the only bit of Sun technology that I actually care about at this point is OpenOffice.
Sure, Solaris was becoming quite a platform for virtualization and Sun had made real strides in terms of bring cross-platform virtualized applications to the desktop. They donated time, money, and expertise to a variety of educational pursuits. We all know the open source projects they had in their stable. I just can't get fussed about anything, though, except OpenOffice.
Mostly this is because I'm convinced that MySQL will live on; it's simply embedded in too many places to die and has already been forked, so I'm not overly concerned. VirtualBox is great, but there are other virtualization products that will do the trick if it dies. OpenOffice has forked as well, but Go-oo.org lacks the brand recognition or credibility of OpenOffice. It is also Windows and Linux only; Macs need to rely on OpenOffice or NeoOffice, the former of which is fully cross-platform.
Why do I care about OpenOffice so much? Because it saves our schools a lot of money. More importantly, it saves our students, parents, and community members a lot of money. It means that any student with a computer can have a fully-functional, mature office productivity suite without paying hundreds of dollars or settling for the Works suite that might have come with their computers.
Can OpenOffice do a mail merge as well as Office 2007? No, not quite. Are its spreadsheet functions as easy to use? Close...very close. Aside from that, though, is there anything that most students, faculty, or staff would be looking for in an Office suite that can't be satisfied for free with OpenOffice? The simple answer is no.
What this means is that OpenOffice must live on beyond Sun. Maybe Oracle will get behind it; I'm not so sure and I'm not alone. However, whatever rebranding of Go-oo needs to happen should happen and we should make sure that our students and schools still have access to the highest quality, free office suite available.