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Oracle Paves Way for OpenOffice Reunion

A schism between Oracle with its OpenOffice.org productivity suite and The Document Foundation with its similar LibreOffice development effort is apparently beginning to heal.

Oracle is giving up stewardship of the OpenOffice.org open source productivity suite, which it acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems last year. Oracle on Wednesday announced that it has proposed contributing the OpenOffice.org source code to The Apache Software Foundation and its incubation efforts.

Oracle and The Document Foundation went separate ways on developing the OpenOffice.org code after Oracle took the reigns. Their development efforts forked, creating two separate camps of volunteer coders working on two similar open source productivity suites, which are largely considered to be contenders to the near ubiquitous Microsoft Office.

Reunion Possibility
The Document Foundation expressed interest on Wednesday in "reuniting the OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice projects into a single community of equals in the wake of the departure of Oracle," according to a released statement. The organization expressed optimism about future-proofing the licensing, enabling a free open source productivity suite and Office alternative for both individuals and enterprises.

"The Apache License is compatible with both the LGPLv3+ [GNU Lesser General Public License version 3+] and MPL [Mozilla Public License] licenses, allowing TDF future flexibility to move the entire codebase, to MPLv2 or future LGPL license versions," The Document Foundation noted in a released statement.

Jim Jagielski, the president of the Apache Software Foundation, possibly will serve as the "podling" mentor for the newly contributed OpenOffice.org code. He told Computerworld that Oracle's donation of code to the Apache Software Foundation, rather than to The Document Foundation, was "a slap," but that The Document Foundation largely achieved its goals. Jagielski expected to see close cooperation between the Apache Software Foundation's efforts on OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice.

Jay Lyman, an analyst with The 451 Group, indicated in a blog that when software vendors resort to using foundations in open source development efforts, it can remove issues of control that often trip up community efforts.

Meanwhile, The Document Foundation announced version 3.4.0 of its LibreOffice productivity suite today. This release should not be implemented in a corporate environment but it's being released to community users, according to The Document Foundation. The new suite includes user interface improvements, plus updated features in Calc and improved compatibility with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. LibreOffice 3.4.0 can be downloaded here.

Google Docs Requires 'Modern Browsers'
In other Office alternatives news, Google let it be known on Wednesday that it will drop browser support "on a rolling basis" for its Google Docs and Gmail services. Use of Google's on-demand productivity suite and its e-mail services requires "modern browsers." Browsers that lack support for HTML 5 won't provide a high enough quality experience, Google argued in its announcement.

So, starting on Aug. 1, Google plans to support the current versions of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari for Google Docs. When new versions of those browsers are released, Google plans to support them, but it will also "stop supporting the third-oldest version" of those browsers.

A new Forrester Research study on "Top Barriers to Replacing Microsoft Office," published in late May, found that more than 25 percent of companies claim to be seeking or testing Web-based alternatives to Microsoft Office. That finding was based on a Forrester first-quarter 2011 survey of global IT decision makers.

One stumbling block for organizations considering Office alternatives is assuring that the file formats used by an alternative productivity suite will be compatible with Microsoft Office file formats. Organizations also are worried about gaining user acceptance of the alternative productivity software. Integrating e-mail, calendar and contacts with Microsoft Outlook is yet another question for organizations considering these alternatives, according to Forrester's study.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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