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Oracle Proposes Apache Foundation for Open Office

| by Alex Blewitt Follow 4 Followers on Jun 02, 2011. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |

In an unexpected move, Oracle has announced that it will be transitioning OpenOffice, the document management suite that it inherited from Sun Microsystems, to the Apache Foundation. This also marks a relicensing of the existing OpenOffice codebase from the LGPL to the Apache License.

The Apache Foundation has released a blog post on incubation at Apache, noting that the foundation's structure is well suited to providing legal, financial and infrastructure support to incubating projects without worrying about liability. It also notes that five of the top ten open source projects are Apache projects.

This follows on the back of a protracted fork in the form of LibreOffice, which was created as a fork of OpenOffice a little over half a year ago. The Document Foundation, which looks after the LibreOffice codebase, was created over concerns that Oracle would discontinue OpenOffice or place restrictions in a similar manner to OpenSolaris.

In response to the fork, and as a result of community following the LibreOffice rather than OpenOffice, Oracle said that it was terminating the OpenOffice project.

The proposed transition to Apache incubator status may create renewed interest in OpenOffice, outside of an Oracle controlled environment, and encourage other companies to get involved as well. IBM in particular has had a long standing relationship with the Apache Foundation and an interest in office tools, and has expressed an interest in contributing under the new location.

However, projects in the Apache Incubator must demonstrate that they have community momentum and ongoing development in order to graduate (and to stay current). With Oracle's earlier plans to abandon development and limited interest in the community at the current time, it remains to be seen whether OpenOffice will flourish under the new licensing regime and the new location.

Oracle has been at odds with the Apache Foundation in the past, recently subpoenaing the Apache Foundation in relation to the dispute over the Apache Harmony, which was denied a TCK under the legal agreement it had with the Apache Foundation.

Stephen Colebourne, creator of the Joda Time framework, thinks that there may be indirect benefits for LibreOffice:

What this does allow, indirectly, is for Libre Office to reuse code currently only in Open Office, due to the less restrictive Apache License that will be on the code. Even if that is the only outcome, it is of itself positive.

Even better would be for Open Office and Libre Office to collaborate on some areas – perhaps some common libraries that Libre Office developers would be comfortable with being under the Apache license.

More information is available at the OpenOfficeProposal at the Apache Foundation's incubator wiki.

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Not sure why this is newsworthy of Infoq, but that won't solve OO's problem by Dan Tines

The OpenOffice code base is notoriously bit-rotten. Sun always had problems getting outside developers to contribute to the project because the code was such a mess.

Now you've got LibreOffice which further dilutes the development effort. I use Excel and LibreOffice on a pretty regular basis. Libre/OpenOffice has a couple capabilities that are nice, and having Excel open up workbooks in separate windows is a pain.

I think we need a powerful alternative to Excel, but I don't think Libre/OpenOffice is it.

Google's online spreadsheet works surprisingly well, even though obviously it's totally limited by being html/js/css.

It might take an ungodly number of man-hours, but maybe start with Eclipse as a base.

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