A blog for the enterprise open source community
Oracle is not to blame for Sun’s open source failingsMatthew Aslett, April 18, 2011 @ 9:56 am ET
Oracle announced on Friday that it is to discontinue its commercial interest in the OpenOffice.org project, prompting a barrage of criticism from the open source faithful with regards to its approach to the open source applications project, and community in general.
The company was accused of being community-hostile, for example, and comparisons were also made to Colonel Gadhafi, while a translation of the press release into “plain English” apparently shed new light on the announcement.
In truth though, the language used in Oracle’s statement is hardly ambiguous:
“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.”
If an open source project is clearly of commercial value to Oracle it will invest in it. If not, it won’t. Why should it be any other way? Oracle is under no obligation to continue any of Sun’s products, open or closed, unless they are seen to be delivering value to the company.
It is certainly not obligated to clear up the mess left by Sun’s mishandling of the various open source projects it created, in particular the promises it made and then failed to keep.
Simon Phipps has categorised Oracle’s announcement under “betrayals”. Exactly who is being betrayed, how, and by whom is unclear.
Simon, as many people will be aware, was formerly chief open source officer at Sun, the company that created OpenOffice.org and promised (originally in 2000) to create an OpenOffice Foundation to run it.
Sun’s failure to relinquish control over OpenOffice.org during the ensuing 10 years led directly to the creation of the LibreOffice project and The Document Foundation in September 2010.
Could Oracle have better managed its dealings with the OpenOffice.org community since it closed its acquisition of Sun in January 2010 and avoided the split between OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice? Perhaps.
Certainly the company is in a position now to ensure that in transferring OpenOffice.org to a community-based project it seeks to unite the community rather than causing increased fracturing. [Update: The Document Foundation has issued a vague statement that appears to suggest it is not interested in reunification with OpenOffice.org.] Oracle should be judged on how it handles that challenge rather than previous challenges that were beyond its control.
Oracle has had 15 months to improve the relationship between the OpenOffice.org community and its corporate owner. Sun had 10 years. Some of those now pointing their fingers at Oracle would do well to remember that.
Comments (19) Categories: Software