Oracle to Make OpenOffice Community-Based

April 18, 2011

Back in September of last year, I posted a note here about the fork of the productivity suite development, and the establishment of the non-profit Document Foundation and its associated LibreOffice project.   The OpenOffice suite, which began life as StarOffice, a product of the German software developer Star Division, was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 1999, and subsequently by Oracle as part of its acquisition of Sun.  Much of the impetus for the split came from widespread suspicion of Oracle’s committment to maintaining the quite as an open-source project.  Many organizations from the open-source world, including influential Linux distributions like Ubuntu, have switched to LibreOffice as their base office suite.

Now, according to an Oracle press release at MarketWire, Oracle has decided to turn OpenOffice back into a fully community-based, open-source project.  Oracle will, apparently, no  longer offer a commercial version of OpenOffice.

“Given the breadth of interest in free personal productivity applications and the rapid evolution of personal computing technologies, we believe the 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.

Oracle has said that it remains committed to support of the Open Document format [ISO/IEC 26300] standard.  The company also has a blog post on this announcement.

Update Monday, 18 April, 22:45 EDT

There is also an article at Ars Technica on Oracle’s announcement, which gives some of the background, and also points out that Oracle’s insistence on maintaining complete control of the project may have helped boost LibreOffice.

The community defections eventually made OOo financially untenable for Oracle, which is why the company has finally thrown in the towel. Oracle says that it is ready to hand over control of the project to the community, but doing so at this point would be little more than a symbolic gesture; the community has already moved on of its own accord.

Oracle now has little choice but to abandon its commercial ambitions for OOo because the growing momentum of the more inclusive LibreOffice fork is making OOo irrelevant.

When the Document Foundation was launched, the group’s leaders invited Oracle to participate, an idea the company rejected.

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