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Oracle's Code Contribution to Openoffice.org Voted In by Apache Software Foundation

A vote was put to the members of the Apache Software Foundation last week to accept Oracle's source code contribution to Openoffice.org.

The decision seemed foregone, but the votes still needed to be counted. The OpenOffice.org open source software will now be developed under the permissive Apache 2.0 license, according to a proposal published by the Apache Software Foundation. The votes were heavily in favor of the proposal, with just a few dissenters. IBM employee and OpenDocument Format (ODF) architect Rob Weir addressed some of the dissenter's complaints in a blog post.

Fears apparently exist among the dissenters that free open source software, as represented by The Document Foundation's alternative LibreOffice, will suffer in the transition, according to Weir. However, The Document Foundation doesn't appear to share that view and has been trying to unify its LibreOffice development efforts with those of OpenOffice.org for many months. The Document Foundation published its April correspondence with Oracle to that effect.

OpenOffice.org developers and LibreOffice developers had split into two camps after Oracle bought Sun Microsystems last year. The acquisition brought with it the OpenOffice.org project as well. At one point, Oracle had planned to build a commercial productivity suite based on OpenOffice.org code, but the company eventually backed away from that idea.

Oracle this month proposed contributing the OpenOffice.org code to be developed under the stewardship of the Apache Software Foundation, and that idea was quickly accepted. As part of the proposal, the Apache Software Foundation plans to collaborate with LibreOffice developers.

"The Apache OpenOffice project will seek to build a constructive working and technical relationship so that the source code developed at Apache can be readily used downstream by LibreOffice, as well as exploring ways for their upstream contributions to be integrated," the proposal states.

The proposal acknowledges that IBM initially will provide a large contribution to the Apache Software Foundation's OpenOffice.org incubation project, at least in terms of developer time.

"The initial group of proposed committers does not appear to be dominated by a single company," the proposal states. "However, when we look at sponsored developers, with the ability to work on this project full time, IBM clearly has more committers. We believe that this situation will change, as the project develops."

IBM announced earlier this month that it planned to "contribute staff resources to collaborate with the Apache community during the project's incubation period to further the Open Document Format standard," according to a press release.

IBM is a heavy backer of the XML-based ODF international document format standard that's used in OpenOffice.org and other productivity suites. ODF is supported in the latest Microsoft Office releases, alongside Microsoft's own Office Open XML document format approach.

Microsoft pushed its Office Open XML format as an international standard, which was eventually published as ISO/IEC 29500:2008. That standardization process was mired in controversy, with IBM crying foul, and IBM appears not to have forgotten. It plans to insist on strict compliance of the ISO/IEC 29500 standard before it will integrate Office Open XML into its Lotus Symphony productivity suite, according to a Forrester Research report. However, even Microsoft isn't compliant with the strict interpretation of ISO/IEC 29500 in its current Office 2010 suite.

In any case, it now appears that the Apache OpenOffice project and The Document Foundation's LibreOffice have common ground, given that Oracle is out of the picture. OpenOffice.org is perhaps the most foremost contender to the widely used Microsoft Office productivity suite. The reunion of the OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice efforts promises to ratchet up the Microsoft Office competition, perhaps.

About the Author

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

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