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Oracle Buy Renews Call To Spin Off OpenOffice.org 170

Posted by kdawson
from the now-to-tempt-all-liberty-procured dept.
ericatcw writes "Some OpenOffice.org insiders say Oracle's purchase of Sun is reinvigorating the long-stymied push to spin off the open-source project into a 100% independent foundation. Freeing itself from Sun's (and soon to be Oracle's) orbit will attract more developers and more vendor support, two perennial problems due to Sun's tight grip on the project, say supporters, who wonder which foundation model might work best: Mozilla, Apache or Linux. Others prefer to take their chances under Larry Ellison, saying Oracle's take-no-prisoners salesforce and grudge against Microsoft could benefit OpenOffice.org. Version 3.0 of the Microsoft Office competitor has garnered 50 million downloads in the last six months."
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Oracle Buy Renews Call To Spin Off OpenOffice.org

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  • by Smidge207 (1278042) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:33PM (#27748723) Journal

    Christ, kids, for the last time, OpenOffice is part of a patent cross-licensing deal between Sun and Microsoft that resulted from all the anti-trust cases that Sun won. If OO is detached from Sun, it loses that umbrella patent protection and would likely be targeted by Microsoft. Looking at the big picture it would take a tiny amount of Oracle's R&D budget to improve OO. The first thing would be to support macros. A bi-directional translator would be acceptable. A more viable OO could do nothing but help Oracle in its epic battle with MSFT. So piss off.

    =Smidge=

    • by skynexus (778600) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:44PM (#27748909)

      It makes no sense to spin off OpenOffice before knowing what Oracle does to it. What I think most of us really care about is some reinvigoration in the OpenOffice project, which this change may help bring about.

      • by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:08PM (#27749235) Homepage Journal

        That's a very good point.

        When Sun was buying MySQL, there was a lot of FUD how it was going to ruin it, but looking at MySQL job trends [indeed.com] it seems as if MySQL adoption has increased.

        Even after the acquisition, people try to paint Sun in a bad light over what's been going on with MySQL. For example, when it was announced that MySQL was going to come out with some features that would only be available in the closed source, enterprise version, the decision was attributed to Sun, when it seemed like it was really Mickos' decision. He was the former CEO of MySQL AB.

        When Sun reversed the decision, the news was the MySQL made the change.

        Even recently, what's been going on with Monty Widenus leaving Sun has been used to make Sun sound like it was hurting MySQL, but if you read Monty's blog [blogspot.com] about why he left Sun, it sounds more like he was unhappy with MySQL management, and not Sun.

        I get the impression that Monty wasn't all that happy with MySQL AB even before they were bought by Sun. When Sun bought them, he was hoping for things to improve but that never happened.

        Unfortunately, even a company like Sun is not the same as a startup before VC money and board members come in. It seems it's not as stifling as other companies though, but not what Monty was expecting.

        People like Monty probably aren't meant for that type of atmosphere. Probably why people like Andy Bechtolstein come and go frequently.

    • by rackserverdeals (1503561) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:48PM (#27748979) Homepage Journal

      Are you sure? I thought it was StarOffice that was protected, but Sun was indemnifying Open Office users as well?

      In any case, the agreement was back in 2004 and nothing has happened since then.

      I had a thought in the past about house Sun could improve their OpenOffice development to include more outside contributors. It would be true for any of their open source projects.

      One of the big issues with big companies dealing with open source projects is that they aren't required to use the public colaboration tools. In fact it's harder for them to do so.

      Instead of Sally asking a question or presenting an idea to Joe on the mailing list, where everyone can see it, Sally might run into Joe in the hallway or walk up to his desk. So all these ideas that Sally and Joe are exchanging are "closed".

      It may be ore productive, but it doesn't include the community.

      It might be better for the community if employees working on open source projects mostly worked from home to encourage them to use the community collaboration tools.

      I think Sun might understand this. The disadvantage of meeting someone in the hallway is something I heard in a presentation from a Sun employee. That might be why they have been working on the Wonderland project [java.net].

      With Wonderland, you can get all the developers in one virtual conference room without having to really see or smell them which can be a very good thing. I've had my share of marathon coding sessions.

    • "OpenOffice is part of a patent cross-licensing deal between Sun and Microsoft that resulted from all the anti-trust cases that Sun won. If OO is detached from Sun, it loses that umbrella patent protection and would likely be targeted by Microsoft"

      What umbrella patent protection?. According to this Microsoft gets Sun to find any 'patent violation, and pay for any subsequent litigation. Not much protection then. I don't know any other company who would have the cohones to get a rival to sue it's own custo
  • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:33PM (#27748733) Homepage Journal

    Doesn't IBM use Open Office as the core for one of their products as well? If that's the case, it would seem that a Mozilla or Apache license would be needed to allow them to continue development and shipping as well.

    It's a big step for a project to shift from sponsored to self-sustaining. I hope the OOo team isn't biting off more than they can chew with their plans to shift to an independant project.

    • Lotus Symphony [lotus.com] is based on OOo, and the various OOo programs are integrated into Lotus Notes 8 Standard as optional Productivity Tools.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by davidsyes (765062)

        "Symphony" should have been an extension of SmartSuite especially since SmartSuite has:

        - A multi-award-winning end-user-friendly relational database (Approach) that trounces the hell out of Base
        - A spreadsheed (1-2-3) that has STILL got some superior chart editing features that Calc hasn't got
        - A word processor (WordPro) that has true WYSIWYG facilities that Write hasn't got
        - A planner (Organizer)
        - A presentation application (Freelance)

        The first 3 alone are worth the $300 IBM asks for, but REALLY wish that

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Enderandrew (866215)

      Lotus Symphony, which you refer to, is based off of OOo 1, because that was the last version that IBM could fork a closed-source app off of.

      I think Oracle should partner with IBM to allow Symphony to be based off the latest OOo 3 base.

      IBM should be able to sell a top-notch threat to MS Office, while OOo could benefit greatly from an improved UI that Symphony offers.

  • Downloads over the last six months. Just so when people send me .od* files I need to save them as MSOffice docs...
  • Long Way To Go :( (Score:3, Informative)

    by Steve Cox (207680) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:48PM (#27748971)

    > Version 3.0 of the Microsoft Office competitor has garnered 50 million downloads in the last six months.

    They have a long way to go though - the last release of Office probably had 10 times that. They probably also had at least 10 times that in legal purchases too....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Enderandrew (866215)

      And while I praise the effort of OOo devs, everytime there is an update, people download it again. Conversely, one may download it once and the deploy it to 1,000 machines. Downloads are sadly not an accurate indicator of users.

      • by rts008 (812749)

        Or like me and most of my friends, that use OOo, having downloaded and installed from our distro repository.

  • I for one... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:48PM (#27748973) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't mind seeing a "retail" version of open office on the shelves at the local best buy or walmart, and the open office group would likely need a large corporation to launch such an effort. If open office was sitting on the retail shelf for, say $50 in a nice box with all the open office apps, next to MS office at $300 with all the apps, we could see its acceptance really start to soar.

    Granted, I would still download it for free, because I'm cheap. But I would suspect plenty of people would be willing to dish out $50 or so for it, and being in a full retail box with a jewel case and printed manual adds "legitimacy" in the eyes of many consumers.

    And I suspect Oracle could help bankroll such a push much better than the open office foundation themselves could.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Enderandrew (866215)

      Walmart doesn't carry it, but there is a retail box version.

      http://www.sun.com/software/staroffice/ [sun.com]

      • Re:I for one... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @04:00PM (#27749879) Homepage Journal

        Walmart doesn't carry it, but there is a retail box version

        Which feeds into my point; sure you have a retail box version but >99% of computer buyers have never seen that box. There are a great number of people who still haven't heard of open office; if they could get it into places where more people shop they could increase the familiarity of the brand and the product.

        • by MBGMorden (803437)

          I think if they marketed it as one of those $10 applications that Walmart sells in jewel cases, they might have some success. Heck even stick a "Pro" or "Deluxe" version close by for $49 or $99. There is still some misinformed portion of the populace that equates price to value. If the app is free, then they'll scoff at it ("You get what you pay for!" - that lovely little baby boomer war cry that is so irrelevant when it comes to computer products that it's time it was retired). With that crowd to get t

    • by MrMista_B (891430)

      I suspect rather the opposite. People see OO for $50, and MSOffice for $300, and thing "Wow, what's this cheap knockoff? Only $50? I better avoid that, cheap knockoffs could have bad things. I better get the 'real' one, just to be safe."

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by FudRucker (866063)
        not everybody wants to throw down 300 bucks for ms-office and with the economy in the toilet even more so. there are lots of people that just need to print a decent looking document, or use a generic spreadsheet for some basic accounting, i use openoffice's spreadsheets to do checkbook balancing since i have a debt card and no more checkbook with built in register so i save my receipts and when i get home i fire up OO.org and update the withdrawals and balance (would be nice if there was a template to autom
        • by BitZtream (692029)

          not everybody wants to throw down 300 bucks for ms-office

          Even fewer people will be happy they lost the $50 for such an inferior product.

          The only people I've seen that like OO are the ones who would rather use a text editor and think that HTML in email is evil. That statistically irrelevant portion of the population really doesn't matter.

          Let me follow that up with, I prefer text only email and store pretty much all of my documents as plain text, and I'd STILL much rather use MS Office over OO, its just a co

      • In a tight economy I bet they will be less likely to say that.

    • That is what is so great about open source. You don't need to wait for Sun or Oracle to sell Open Office. You can do it yourself. Just make sure to include the source code on the CD, and the GPL notice in the manual, and on the box.

    • Actually, you want several different versions on the shelves. The first would sell for 25, but offer just a bit more. I know that I would buy it just to help. The second should be for 50 which would have install support and perhaps more goodies than does the 25 version. Finally, a version for 100, which includes full support, and a lot of extra goodies. That version should install easily into MS, Apple, and Linux.
    • I for one...Wouldn't mind seeing a "retail" version of open office on the shelves at the local best buy or walmart, and the open office group would likely need a large corporation to launch such an effort. If open office was sitting on the retail shelf for, say $50 in a nice box with all the open office apps, next to MS office at $300 with all the apps, we could see its acceptance really start to soar.

      Granted, I would still download it for free, because I'm cheap. But I would suspect plenty of people would be willing to dish out $50 or so for it, and being in a full retail box with a jewel case and printed manual adds "legitimacy" in the eyes of many consumers.

      Ah, yeah, two words for you on the retail idea: Mandrake Linux.

      Sorry, but I didn't exactly see their revenues soar through the roof when they hit the Best Buy shelves. As a matter of fact, where the heck are all those distros at Best Buy...

      Bottom line is it's a long hard road to go against the monster that is Office. Don't know if retail channels is the path to glory vs. something like pushing the suite into the cloud.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Ah, yeah, two words for you on the retail idea: Mandrake Linux.

        Sorry, but I didn't exactly see their revenues soar through the roof when they hit the Best Buy shelves. As a matter of fact, where the heck are all those distros at Best Buy...

        Indeed, Mandrake fizzled. However, there is a distinct difference between selling an OS at Best Buy, and selling an office suite.

        After all, every computer sold at best buy comes with an OS. Almost none of them come with a functioning office suite. Very few customers at best buy have a need or desire to install an OS on their system beyond what is already on it; almost every customer will at some point need to read and write to an office file for something.

        Hence since the customers there have already

    • by artemis67 (93453)

      That's what Star Office was... it was the more polished version of Open Office that Sun was selling.

    • by westlake (615356)
      Wouldn't mind seeing a "retail" version of open office on the shelves at the local best buy or walmart. If open office was sitting on the retail shelf for, say $50 in a nice box with all the open office apps, next to MS office at $300 with all the apps, we could see its acceptance really start to soar.

      It's been tried on Amazon with 79 cent CD-ROMs.

      Ranking somewhere around 39 in sales of office suites, as I recall.

      The chances are really quite good that you already qualify for a legit free or steeply dis

    • If they packaged good documentation in book form, I might even consider buying it. And I know enough to download it for free.

  • by Nerdposeur (910128) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:48PM (#27748983) Journal

    Considering that part of the argument for "Linux is great" is "look, you get an office suite for free," Canonical should be Oo's biggest supporter.

    Personally, I use Oo in Linux and Windows, but I think it's got a long way to go to compete with MS Office. I hope it catches up.

    (And before you ask, I have neither the skills nor the time to contribute to the code myself.)

    • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:09PM (#27749265) Homepage Journal

      This is what gets me. Ubuntu is getting all the praise, but the two companies that pay devs to really push for upstream development are Red Hat and Novell. Novell has a great fork of OpenOffice (go-oo.org) and has really been pushing OpenOffice development.

      If anyone is going to circle their wagons around a community fork, the go-oo fork would be where I started.

      I believe both Oxygen Office, and Neo Office use it as a starting point for their forks.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:33PM (#27749555)

        Go-oo is not a fork. It is a set of additional features and modifications on top of OO.o. It's constantly synced with OO.o

      • by PitaBred (632671)
        Redhat and Novell both do a lot of development, true, but don't overlook the "look and feel" improvements that Ubuntu has pushed. The Linux desktop only started really getting cohesive when Ubuntu came on the scene. You can't as easily say "Look how many kernel commits are from @redhat.com!" with Ubuntu, but it really has fostered community and a lot of improvement in the user interface and integration arena. Little things like making screen nicer for most people [arstechnica.com]. The features have always existed, they're j
        • I'm not saying Ubuntu does nothing. I'm saying Ubuntu gets almost all the credit for Linux development, when they do a very small portion of it.

          As Nedposeur posited, it is to Canonical's benefit to have good products like OpenOffice they can tout. But they aren't pushing much upstream. Shuttleworth did say last year that they will invest more in the future in upstream development, so that might change. But to this point, Canonical gets more credit than they deserve.

          And while I disagreed with the Novell/

          • Well your right that Canonical is highly praised, but its for bringing a desktop distribution thats usable by ordinary people. Honestly there are huge numbers of people that have tried other distributions and given up and gone back to Windows. Canonical's six month release schedule keeps things interesting and gains more users with each release and more developers. It's good for other distributions too as users mature and are prepared to try a different distribution. They might hate it but they are far more

            • No doubt I will burn some karma here, but I don't think that Ubuntu is any more user friendly that openSUSE or Mandriva or PCLinuxOS or Simply MEPIS, etc.

              Ubuntu has pushed some nice things, but they aren't the only distro that features an easy install, a good package manager, and a nice desktop. And since I'm a KDE user, it is hard for me to praise Ubuntu's desktop. I loathe Gnome, and Ubuntu has been shipping really broken KDE 4 packages for the past year and a half. I hear good progress was made for Ku

              • Almost certainly now there are many good alternatives to Ubuntu, but when I was first trying SUSE, it was a pig. Dependencies drove me up the wall, trying to network with windows PC's did likewise and KDE was so unresponsive, i often opened a shell for example 2 or 3 times.
                from I think around 8 to 9 Suse was getting usable but I haven't touched it since.

                I would put that down to inexperience and under powered hardware to be honest. I'm still adverse to KDE although there are some really good applicat

          • by Vexorian (959249)

            I'm not saying Ubuntu does nothing. I'm saying Ubuntu gets almost all the credit for Linux development, when they do a very small portion of it.

            That's not right, they only happen to get most of the credit in the desktop/home niche, and you got to accept that red hat/Novell/Sun never really made that a priority - which to their bussiness is a good thing. But in the desktop, Linux needed and needs a lot of polish, and canonical did exactly that, I mean can you believe X would just crash giving lame errors un

  • by D Ninja (825055) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:51PM (#27749013)

    Who knows if this will be modded as a troll or not, but, with each new version of OO.org, I download it, try it out, and then head back to Microsoft Office 2003/7. I know not everybody is a fan of the ribbon interface (which I particularly *really* like), but, in general, OO.org just feels clunky. I really can't put my finger on what it is exactly, but it's the reason I can't get myself to adopt to it. I want to, but the interface and speed of OO.org must be improved.

    • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:13PM (#27749335)

      Who knows if this will be modded as a troll or not, but, with each new version of OO.org, I download it, try it out, and then head back to Microsoft Office 2003/7.

      There is nothing wrong with Office 2003/2007. They are very good products. If you -have- Office 2003/2007 and you need to be saving as .xls or .doc anyway, you might as well use it. I can't really imagine anyone who HAS office 2007 switching to OOo unless they want to use odf, or are switching to Linux... or something like that.

      However, if you didn't have Office 2007, ask yourself whether you find the free OOo so 'clunky' that you'd shell out $150 for Office Home and Student just to avoid using it at home? Or $400+ to use it at work?

      Maybe you would... maybe you wouldn't. But I can tell you a lot of people wouldn't. And are happy to put up with OOo's relatively minor shortcomings to get off the MS Office upgrade treadmill.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cbhacking (979169)

        You make a good point, except for one thing: ODF is available in MS Office as well. It's a open-source plugin (sponsored by Microsoft, hosted on Sourceforge) and integrates pretty nicely. I've been using it all the way back to when "Office 12" (as it was then called) was in beta, and I've yet to find a file it couldn't open correctly, or one that it saved which opened incorrectly on another office suite.

        http://odf-converter.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

        • Doesn't help if all you need to do is a few basic documents and spreadsheets and you run in Linux most of the time. I actually own Office Home and Student, but although though I find it to be more polished for even basic tasks, I can't be bothered to try to get it to work under Wine, so I stick with OOo.

    • by rmcd (53236) *

      I find that Office 2003/2007 has a "fit and finish" that is light years ahead of OO. There are little things like the visual indicator when you have copied a region in Excel, that I find I miss in OO. However, when 2007 came out I switched to using OO whenever possible because I just cannot stand the toolbar. (And I also think it unbelievably presumptuous to require all users to switch en masse between hugely different interfaces. It's either lazy engineering --- Borland's office tools let you pick your men

  • How about a mix? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:58PM (#27749109) Journal
    Move to less control by Oracle, but keep it selling under the Oracle/Sun umbrella. Oracle WANTS to destroy MS's monopoly, the same as most ppl in our industry. After that, we can have innovation again.
    • by hackstraw (262471)

      Move to less control by Oracle, but keep it selling under the Oracle/Sun umbrella. Oracle WANTS to destroy MS's monopoly, the same as most ppl in our industry. After that, we can have innovation again.

      Microsoft has a monopoly on product X as much as Lotus 123 has on spreadsheets.

      Their stock price has decreased to about 1/2 of the value 10 years ago. I can't think of a compelling product or service that they have to change that fact. In comparison, Apple's stock is over 10x the price it was 10 years ago.

      A monopoly would suggest an opposite trend.

      On a different topic, if you can see my .signature, its not a ploy on Microsoft, but rather I find the truth of the statement, err, interesting.

  • by javacowboy (222023) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:01PM (#27749157)

    Sun bought StarOffice to save money on Windows licenses:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_office#History [wikipedia.org]

    The number one reason why Sun bought StarDivision in 1999 was because, at the time, Sun had something approaching forty-two thousand employees. Pretty much every one of them had to have both a Unix workstation and a Windows laptop. And it was cheaper to go buy a company that could make a Solaris and Linux desktop productivity suite than it was to buy forty-two thousand licenses from Microsoft. (Simon Phipps, Sun, LUGradio podcast.)

    Sun open sourced Star Office because they could, but that was a secondary motivation.

    Does Oracle have the same objectives? Probably not, since I imagine their employees have a lot of other software that requires Windows.

    Since Oracle doesn't need to use Star/OpenOffice internally, then they have less motivation to control the project that Sun does.

    • Could IBM in turn purchase the Star Office division from Oracle?

      IBM only has access to the OOo 1 codebase for Lotus Symphony currently.

    • $73 million / 42000 employees = $1700 per employee. Would have been cheaper to buy 42000 StarOffice licenses for $2.1 million.

      • by iamhigh (1252742)
        Yeah, I had to check that math too. Even Office would have been cheaper at full price, much less the massive discount you would get for that quantity.
        • Reply to parent and grand-parent...

          Buying StarOffice *ONCE* cost more than buying 42,000 Office97 licences in 1999. But guess what, Office 97 (AKA Office 8) was superceded by Office 2000 (AKA Office 9), *AND OFFICE97 WAS NO LONGER AVAILABLE*. So all your new computers and new employees will now end up with Office 2000 (AKA Office 9), until 2002, at which point Office XP (AKA Office 10) was introduced. That was followed by Office 2003 (AKA Office 11) and Office 2007 (AKA Office 12).

          Supporting multiple ver

    • It's hard to tell when Sun is telling the truth. It was only a few years earlier when Mcnealy was saying he had banned office suites at Sun. How can you save money replacing MS Office when you're not using it?

  • by westlake (615356) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @03:11PM (#27749297)
    Others prefer to take their chances under Larry Ellison, saying Oracle's take-no-prisoners salesforce and grudge against Microsoft could benefit OpenOffice.org

    The geek sees an office suite.

    What Microsoft really sells is the MS Office environment.

    Integrated Client-Server solutions for damn near everything your people will ever need - solutions which scale "effortlessly" from the home office to the enterprise. On-line resources and third-party support that are miles wide and deep.

    The geek doesn't have a clue.

    Recruiting workers who are comfortable and productive in the MS Office environment is trivially easy for anyone based south of the North Pole -
    and even there you could probably set up shop on the remnants of the ice pack without much trouble.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheSunborn (68004)

      Integrated Client-Server solutions for damn near everything your people will ever need - solutions which scale "effortlessly" from the home office to the enterprise

      When do they start selling this to normal customers? I have newer seen the word "effortlessly" used to describe sharepoint and exchange before.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by PitaBred (632671)
        Ugh. Even in a corporate environment, Sharepoint is a flaming pile of shit. You can only use IE to really get anything done, which means you have to use Windows, every time I connect to our internal one it has 3 or 4 different fucking htaccess-style login boxes I need to ok because it pulls things from multiple places. I'm sure IE has something behind the scenes to make that all invisible, but it sure as hell isn't a web standard.
        • You can only use IE to really get anything done, which means you have to use Windows, every time I connect to our internal one it has 3 or 4 different fucking htaccess-style login boxes I need to ok because it pulls things from multiple places. I'm sure IE has something behind the scenes to make that all invisible, but it sure as hell isn't a web standard.

          What happens is that you're in the domain, and IE uses integrated Windows authentication to silently authenticate you to all Intranet sites as needed using the credentials with which you've logged into the system (and will only show the login box when that authentication fails). There's no reason why other browsers on Windows cannot not support that, and, indeed, Firefox does - it's just disabled by default, but you can enable it [markmonica.com] if you want.

  • Having to deal with Oracle on a daily basis, and comparing that to my OO experiences I'd say they are perfect together.

    Both feel and look like they would have been awesome around 1990, but suck ass compared to any modern alternative.

    I know, Oracle is the best at some things, but someone should let them know that they can have a good product that doesn't feel like you have to enjoy computing like it was in the 70s to use their products.

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