OpenOffice at Apache?

Today’s buzz: talk of OpenOffice being donated to the Apache Software Foundation.

Wow!  That’s a Very Big Catch, isn’t it?  Perhaps the biggest since Hadoop?  Or???

Well, maybe.  As of now it’s a long way from a done deal, and it’s by no means clear that it will happen.  To become an Apache project, OpenOffice will have to be accepted into the incubator where it will have to demonstrate suitability before it can graduate to an Apache project.  Apache media guru Sally Khudairi has written about the incubation process here in anticipation of a wave of interest.

The first question is whether OpenOffice will enter the incubator in the first place.  Before the LibreOffice split there’s little doubt it would’ve been warmly welcomed, but now there’s a questionmark over why Oracle should prefer the ASF to TDF, and whether Apache folks want to make ourselves party to a legacy of that split.  But if this reaction from the LibreOffice folks represents a consensus then I for one will be happy to accept OpenOffice.

Intellectual Property should be straightforward (because Oracle owns all the rights, inherited from Sun), so the question then becomes how the community will fare.  How much room is there for both projects to thrive?  Who will give their loyalty to ASF in preference to TDF, or equal loyalty to both?  Could separate competing projects become a Good Thing and foster innovation, or will it just add duplication and confusion to no real purpose?

There is a likely driver for an Apache version: contributors who prefer the Apache License over the GPL.  That could drive interest particularly from companies like IBM who maintain their own derivative products.  Whether that will give rise to a thriving community, and perhaps a development focus distinct from that of LibreOffice, remains to be seen: that’s part of what incubation will tell us.

Anyway, if OpenOffices enters incubation at Apache, I’d expect that to be make or break for it.  If it thrives then we could see “Apache OpenOffice” at some future date.  If not, then it pretty clearly cedes the future to LibreOffice.  If only they could find a better name …

Shane’s blog links to lots more good reading.

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Posted on June 1, 2011, in apache, free software, open source, oracle, sun. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.

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