A blog for the enterprise open source community
Why Oracle’s donation of OpenOffice disappointsJay Lyman, June 2, 2011 @ 2:17 pm ET
While Oracle deserves some praise for its donation of OpenOffice.org code to the Apache Foundation, it is disappointing again to see a legitimate open source market contender that has been marginalized by miscommunication and mismanagement of the project by a large vendor.
OpenOffice.org, warts and all, was probably the most significant competition for Microsoft Office for years and in many ways demonstrated the advantages of open source, helping usher in wider use of it, as well as greater usability. OO.o was in fact my reason for originally investigating and moving to open source software more than a decade ago. Regardless of past mismanagement of community and technology, that competitive factor has been diminished greatly since Oracle took ownership of OO.o. Now, after prompting a fork — as has been the case with a number of open source projects that fell to Oracle with its Sun acquisition (OpenSolaris-Indiana, OO.o-LibreOffice, Hudson-Jenkins), Oracle is again turning to a broader open source foundation to ‘free’ the project. It shouldn’t be surprising given our research into the balance of control and community, where we see a preference among both users and vendors for the ‘foundational’ approach that is typically less encumbered by real and perceived issues of control.
But by not making this move sooner, Oracle has again demonstrated that it does not appreciate or accept the broader community benefits of open source software. It ties open source investment and development directly to monetary value, meaning it is focused mainly on Linux and MySQL. Oracle should be commended for its honesty here, given its indication that it will contribute and support open source when it bolsters Oracle’s bottom line. However, the company is failing to tie its own success in open source with the success of the larger communities, which begs the question, is Oracle limiting the commercial opportunity for the open source projects on which it is focused by diminishing the community opportunity for projects it is leaving alone?
I might have more enthusiasm for OO.o as an Apache project, but I am somewhat skeptical for OO.o because of the current inclusion and use of LibreOffice in popular Linux distributions. This is how I came to use LibreOffice, and I’ve found it quite sufficient for my document, PDF, spreadsheet and other office suite needs. I would be glad to see a reunification of OO.o and LibreOffice and despite complex issues such as licensing, it is encouraging to see the leaders of LibreOffice and the Apache Foundation coming together toward a positive outcome.
Back to Oracle, the company again deserves credit for its positive and meaningful contributions to open source software, particularly MySQL and Linux, which would not have nearly the enterprise credibility it does without longtime, first-class treatment and support from Oracle. However, Oracle continues to demonstrate that despite how far open source has come in the enterprise, there are still large and powerful forces in the industry that do not fully understand open source software’s potential.
Comments (7) Categories: Software