OpenOffice.org breaks away from Oracle with new foundation

Most of the volunteers and vendors behind OpenOffice.org have decided to create a new foundation that will be independent from Oracle and speed up improvements to the code in the open source alternative to Microsoft Office.

Most of the volunteers and vendors behind OpenOffice.org have decided to create a new foundation that will be independent from Oracle and speed up improvements to the code in the open source alternative to Microsoft Office.

The group unites rivals Novell, Red Hat and Canonical, and includes Google, even though that company has its own office software product with Google Apps.

Microsoft Office 2010's Rivals: IBM, Zoho and OpenOffice

OpenOffice was born more than 10 years ago when Sun Microsystems purchased what was then known as StarOffice. Novell Distinguished Engineer Michael Meeks says that Sun indicated at the time that a foundation would be created to support OpenOffice, but that this never happened.

In addition to creating a new legal entity called "The Document Foundation," the OpenOffice.org volunteers are creating a new brand and source code tree called "LibreOffice" based on the OpenOffice code.

The new name stems from concerns about the OpenOffice trademark now owned by Oracle because of its acquisition of Sun.

"Oracle became much more protective of their trademark [than Sun], which is good in a sense, but we don't have any real guidelines on how to use the trademark," says Charles Schulz, a longtime contributor to OpenOffice.org who is now a member of the Document Foundation steering committee.

"We're actually going to talk to Oracle and have a conversation on this trademark," Schulz continues. "We would like Oracle to give us the trademark of OpenOffice.org."

The Document Foundation hasn't actually been incorporated yet. Tuesday's announcement merely states that the volunteers and vendors who contribute to OpenOffice.org intend to create it within the next month or so. However, the group has set up an interim entity that holds the trademark to the foundation's name, Schulz says.

Meeks says they hope Oracle will contribute to the foundation, but that isn't clear yet. Oracle hasn't responded to a request for comment from Network World.

The creation of LibreOffice will allow faster improvements to the office software source code and free contributors from concerns about copyright. In the new structure, individuals can retain the copyright of code they contribute to the source in a model that's similar to development of Linux and Apache, according to Meeks.

"The Document Foundation sets out deliberately to be as developer friendly as possible," the group says on its Web site. "We do not demand that contributors share their copyright with us. People will gain status in our community based on peer evaluation of their contributions -- not by who their employer is."

LibreOffice includes a number of features and performance improvements "that haven't made their way into the Sun or Oracle version, for one reason or another," Meeks says.

When asked if the previous code development process was cumbersome or difficult, Meeks says, "I think we can substantially improve upon it."

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Tags enginIBMSun MicrosystemsOpenOffice.orgOraclenovellcorporate issuesGooglezohoCanonMicrosoftcanonicalsoftwareacquisitionsRed Hatmergersbusiness issuesopen sourceMergers / acquisitions

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Jon Brodkin

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