Oracle gives up on commercial Open Office

OpenOffice.org will become "a purely community-based open-source project"

Oracle announced Friday that it will no longer sell a commercial version of the Open Office productivity suite, and that the open-source OpenOffice.org will be transitioned to "a purely community-based open-source project."

"Given the breadth of interest in free personal productivity applications and the rapid evolution of personal computing technologies, we believe the OpenOffice.org project would be best managed by an organization focused on serving that broad constituency on a non-commercial basis," said Oracle Chief Architect Edward Screven in a statement.

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Oracle will "begin working immediately with community members to further the continued success of Open Office" and plans to continue supporting standards like ODF (Open Document Format), he said.

Screven went on to confirm Oracle's commitment to other open-source technologies, such as Linux and MySQL. "Oracle is focused on Linux and MySQL because both of these products have won broad based adoption among commercial and government customers," he said.

Oracle's decision suggests the company has had difficulty selling many Open Office licenses since it acquired Sun Microsystems, which sold the software under the name Star Office. Its move is apparently effective immediately; a number of links on its website related to Open Office were dead on Friday.

Although Oracle didn't specify so, the future of its recently announced Cloud Office product also seems in question. Website links for Cloud Office were also gone on Friday.

It's also unclear how Oracle's decision will affect offshoots of the OpenOffice.org codebase, such as the Document Foundation's LibreOffice, which emerged last year amid concerns over how Oracle was dealing with community members.

Previously, the Document Foundation, which counts Google and Red Hat among its supporters, asked Oracle to join the organization and lend the OpenOffice.org brand name to its efforts.

Representatives for the Document Foundation and Oracle both declined comment on Friday.

Overall, Oracle's move presents "a double-edged opportunity," said Michael Coté, an analyst with Redmonk. "On the one hand, paranoid community folks are keen to have Oracle spin out beloved open-source projects, thinking this would prevent Oracle from commercializing those projects too much or somehow making them more closed than open," he said.

But tensions that have arisen between Oracle and community members over other open-source projects "have made these same community folk suspicious of anything Oracle does in open source," he added.

"To that second point, what people will want to know is how the organization is being set up, who will be appointed, how it's funded, licensing and trademark assignment, etc.," Coté added.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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