Thursday, May 17, 2012

LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice

When Oracle bought Sun Microsystems in January 2010, it inherited a collection of community-based  software projects, such as Java, VirtualBox, and Free software and open-source software are both contrary to Oracle's way of doing business. Of the two named projects, VirtualBox flourished. But Oracle mismanaged both Java and so badly that it almost killed them.

Java seems to have recovered from the trauma. There was a while in 2010 and 2011 when it looked like Java had fallen out of favor with professionals, but that's another story for another time.

As for, Oracle decided to assert their control over the project, and did so in such a heavy-handed manner that the majority of the OOo community rebelled. In only a few months, the rebels re-created a free and open-source office suite called LibreOffice. LO's first production release was in January 2011. Unfettered by Oracle, LO flourished and soon replaced OOo as the default office suite in many Linux distributions. Oracle didn't do anything to make OOo competitive, and, for about a year, it looked like Oracle was going to let it starve to death.

But Oracle showed some good sense when, in late 2011, they decided to transfer "stewardship" of OOo to the Apache Incubator, a part of the Apache Software Foundation. The ASF is an organization dedicated to the care and keeping of some very powerful, free and open source, software tools - for example, the Apache HTTP Server, which is the engine behind a galactic buttload of websites all over the world.

Nine days ago, the ASF announced that is back. Apache Open Office (as it's now known) version 3.4 was officially released on May 8.

The big question is whether it will be able to regain the users it lost to LibreOffice. Like many LO users, I don't see a crying need to switch back from LO to AOO. The Document Foundation, stewards of LO, have done some really good stuff. I think it's going to require some competition from ASF to win me back to AOO.

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