The OpenOffice story has taken a curious turn today with Oracle announcing that it intends to cease the commercial versions of this office suite and to move the project a non-commercial organisation.
What the press release does not say is that there is already a non-commercial organisation working on the OpenOffice code. The Document Foundation was formed in September 2010 against Oracle’s wishes. This online OpenOffice meeting shows some of the tensions:
(21:59:42) louis_to: your role in the Document Foundation and LibreOffice makes your role as a representative in the OOo CC untenable and impossible
(22:00:01) Andreas_UX: I would support that. I think that the more we discuss the more we will harden the fronts
(22:00:17) louis_to: it causes confusion, it is a plain conflict of interest, as TDF split from OOo
In this dialog, louis_to is Louis Suárez-Potts who works at Oracle as OpenOffice.org community manager.
Oracle’s Edward Screven, Chief Corporate Architect, says in the new press release:
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.
Why is Oracle distancing itself from OpenOffice? The implication is that it is non-strategic and not broadly adopted among Oracle customers, because these two factors are given as reasons for continuing with Linux and MySQL:
We will continue to make large investments in open source technologies that are strategic to our customers including Linux and MySQL. Oracle is focused on Linux and MySQL because both of these products have won broad based adoption among commercial and government customers.
The question now: will Oracle try to set up an independent foundation to compete with the Document Foundation? Or will there be a reconciliation, which would seem the only sensible way forward?
Background: OpenOffice was originally a commercial suite called Star Office. It was bought by Sun and made free and open source in an attempt to loosen Microsoft’s hold on business computing. While OpenOffice has been popular, in the business world OpenOffice has had little impact on the success of Windows and Office. That said, it is possible that Microsoft’s development of the Office Ribbon and the huge effort behind Office 2007 was partly driven by a desire to differentiate and improve its product in response to the OpenOffice competition.