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Oracle’s OpenOffice Surrender

It’s hard to believe that it was only about six months ago that LibreOffice was born.

The free and open source productivity software suite was created, of course, in response to Oracle’s unclear intentions regarding OpenOffice.org, which had long been the community’s suite of choice. At the time, Oracle chose to keep OpenOffice to itself, but now — fast forward to just a little more than a week ago — it appears to be giving it up after all.

“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,” said Edward Screven, Oracle’s chief corporate architect. “We intend to begin working immediately with community members to further the continued success of OpenOffice.”

Bigger news in the world of FOSS would be difficult to imagine.

Return of the Prodigal Software

Of course, what form the newly freed project will take next remains to be determined. So, too, does its very future, now that LibreOffice has been so warmly embraced by distros and users around the globe.

What will happen to OpenOffice now? Does it still have a place in the world? Such were among the questions being asked over the past week or so in all the haunts and watering holes of the Linux blogosphere.

Linux Girl’s Quick Quotes Quill hasn’t had a rest since the news broke.

‘The Face of Total Defeat’

“This is Oracle realizing it’s lost the battle and trying to maintain some advantage in the face of a total defeat,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told Linux Girl over a round of Free-As-In beers down at the local Punchy Penguin.

“All of the developers have already moved to LibreOffice, leaving Oracle with just a brand name that it now has no way to monetize,” Mack explained. “I hope the entire industry learns the lesson that you can’t just buy a company that manages a FOSS product and expect to simply gain full control over the project.”

Indeed, “Oracle has already done nearly all the damage they can possibly do by inducing a fork,” Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza agreed.

“Trust in Oracle is at an all-time low, and LibreOffice is superior to OpenOffice,” Espinoza added. “If they were smart, they would cut their losses now and hand the whole thing over to LibreOffice in exchange for goodwill, because if they get anything else out of it, it will be a miracle.”

‘The Naughty Child Crushed the Bird’

This is a case where “the naughty child crushed the bird instead of letting it go,” blogger Robert Pogson opined. “Like the child, Oracle will end up with some kind of mess and little to show for it.”

Meanwhile, LibreOffice and the Document Foundation are both doing very well without Oracle, Pogson pointed out.

“LibreOffice is solid, developing rapidly and — best of all, for me — has finally implemented SVG support after Sun/Oracle delayed that capability for years needlessly,” he added.

“I expect, unless Oracle is willing to give up the trademark, OpenOffice.org will continue to fade,” Pogson predicted. “I would not be surprised to see Oracle find some ploy to sue over code eventually.”

‘Doomed to Die Off’

Thoughts on Technology blogger and Bodhi Linux lead developer Jeff Hoogland took a similar view.

“Frankly, I’m surprised it took Oracle this long to put down OpenOffice after the announcement of LibreOffice,” Hoogland told Linux Girl.

“The sad thing is that they aren’t even going to discontinue the project; instead, they are going to try and push it as something ‘community based,'” Hoogland added. “Anyone in the community that would have helped with OpenOffice is already (or will be) involved with LibreOffice. OO.org is doomed to die off at this point.”

‘It Needs Paid Coders’

Slashdot blogger and self-admitted Windows fan hairyfeet saw signs of bigger trouble for free software in general.

“Something like 80 percent of the code in Open Office was placed there by PAID developers under Sun/Oracle, and they just got their pink slips,” hairyfeet asserted. “Do you think they are gonna code for Open Office from their new homes under a bridge? Of course not, they are gonna get jobs that will take them AWAY from Open Office, thus leading to brain drain.”

In order for OpenOffice to compete, “it needs thousands of PAID coders,” hairyfeet concluded. “Ignore this at your own peril.”

‘Money Can’t Buy You Love’

Linux Girl isn’t so sure about that.

Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson, meanwhile, saw quite a different take-away.

“Hopefully Ellison and Oracle have just learned that money can’t buy you love — not even 7 Bazillion dollars,” explained Hudson, who goes by “Tom” on Slashdot. At the same time, “LibreOffice seems to have been energized by the change, now that there’s no navigating the ways of the Sun or Oracle contribution process.”

The bottom line, she concluded, is that “Oracle was left with two choices: continue to spend money competing with a forked project that is already ahead technically, or eat a bit of humble pie.”

‘Humble Pie’ and a Tax Writeoff

The first option is “a money pit,” added Hudson. “Humble pie lets Oracle take a tax write-down on the OOo assets, and the optics are better.”

The only real debate now, in fact, “is whether Oracle will donate the OpenOffice name to LibreOffice,” Hudson pointed out, adding that she hopes it doesn’t.

“Microsoft managed to generate some confusion by naming a file format Office Open XML,” she noted. “And while ‘LibreOffice’ takes some getting used to, ‘OpenOffice.org’ was a cumbersome brand name anyway. Now if someone could only rename the GIMP …”

4 Comments

  • Dear Mrs. Noyes,
    I think you are missing the important issue here.
    Do you really think Oracle did surrender to LibreOffice?.
    or maybe it was because Microsoft Office is much better product, or at least it is most appealing to users and corporations. Then Oracle did not surrender to LibreOffice, They surrender to Microsoft, They realized OpenOffice can not compete with MSOffice. Oracle can not make any money selling Oracle Office, so let the community build the "open" "libre" office whatever you want to call it and maybe some day in the future when the community could have a better product Oracle or another corporation could aspire to compete with King Microsoft.

    • Because it is THIS, this right here, that is why "free as in beer" just doesn’t cut it. I mean sure if You are just little Billy and are gonna print your report Open office is just fine and dandy. i give it away on all my new builds just in case they need a little word processor.

      But after seeing a teacher knock 20 points off a grade because the lousy doc formatting of OO turned a report into word salad on MS Office 2K3, or seeing it mangle horribly anything more complex than basic fonts and headers, OO just doesn’t cut it if you want to work in business. And before some FOSSie says "send your work as PDF!" I can promise you any resumes you send or reports in PDF WILL GET CANNED, since the HR and cheat checking software ONLY works on Doc NOT PDF.

      I’m afraid though it is a symptom of a much larger disease, the refusal of FOSS to grow up and get rid of "free as in beer" even when it is slitting their own throats. Even RH, the biggest giver to the community there is, is seriously getting hurt by this cheapskate atttude as what OS is on nearly a third of webservers? Not RHEL, but instead an OS that was SPECIFICALLY made by a company that was selling hardware that used RH and didn’t want to pay for even a single license, I AM of course talking about CentOS, or as I call it "We’re so cheap we’d rather starve RH for funds and hurt ourselves rather than give a penny".

      So in the end Open Office is behind the curve, bad at most jobs and half arsed at others, no polish, and if you need to share them with any of the majority on MS Office your docs will come out looking like crud. Might as well label them "Hey we’re a Mickey Mouse Org that can’t even afford MS Office!" and be done with it. Hell even RMS sold Emacs to pay for development, so why not get with the times? There needs to be a new license that kills free as in beer while keeping free as in freedom.

      Otherwise prepare to be crushed. Apple is ruling the device market, and fully two thirds of new servers being sold are coming with WINDOWS not Linux. Why? Because they both have the money to hire coders to do all the bug fixing and QA that NEVER gets done in Linux, that’s why. Open Office is just a perfect example, right along with Gimp which to this day FOSSies have the brass ones to say can replace PS, in the "here is a half baked competitor that can kinda sorta but not really compete". Hell hand Open Office to an Excel or PP jockey and watch them laugh you out of the room. Give me a break!

  • Being the cheap person that I AM . I tried Open Office on my Mac and a PC desktop. I was disappointed with both. Their seems to be a lack of polish with open source projects. Maybe, because nobody really makes any money and maybe their is something to having a committed paid group working on a Office suite. After all its more complicated then what many think. Obviously if you like free then you are probably willing to accept less polish on a program. But I had more issues then just a lack of polish. I had crashes, lost documents. Could not open certain documents and in general I had problems with it using memory resources. In the end I went out bought a copy of Microsoft’s Office and never looked back.

  • "now that LibreOffice has been so warmly embraced by distros and users around the globe…
    What will happen to OpenOffice now? Does it still have a place in the world?"

    I’ve been a GNU/Linux user for about 8 years. I never use Windows; I use the latest Debian stable distro (currently Squeeze). I use OpenOffice every day and I’ve never even heard of LibreOffice. I expect most GNU/Linux users would say the same. And no, I’m not going to change from OpenOffice.

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