Can LibreOffice work as an independent business? Several developers involved in the former OpenOffice.org have commented to me that their larger corporate masters left business on the table, unable to manage the sales process around the many small and different opportunities. Smaller spinouts like Collabora Productivity seem to do the job better, if the example of the move made by the former Suse Mono developers is anything to go by. When Suse dropped development of the .Net-compatible Mono platform, the developers formed a new company, Xamarin, with Suse's blessing.
The company has gone on to perform strongly under the leadership of Miguel de Icaza, recently securing VC funding. He told me, "In the end, Novell/Suse were on a different market than where the product needed to be ... and it made sense for each one of us to focus on what our organizations are built to do ... They wanted to make sure customers that had bought the product would continue to be supported."
In the case of Collabora Productivity, the company starts with a lead customer in the form of Suse itself and has several prospects for its services in the pipeline. Philippe Kalaf, CEO of Collabora, said in the news release, "Collabora believes Free Software holds great promise in the office suite market, and we look forward to providing supported LibreOffice releases across Windows, Mac and Linux to both existing and new LibreOffice customers worldwide. We will naturally extend our proven consultancy portfolio to include feature development for LibreOffice."
Meanwhile, the LibreOffice project is taking the news in its stride. Suse is staying on the advisory board of The Document Foundation and is joined by Collabora. The project is already very diverse and while the Suse developers may have seemed a big slice of the community, they are only around 5 percent of the committers, and most remain involved with the project. The impact on the project itself is minimal, as all infrastructure for development and distribution is managed by the Foundation rather than by contributing companies.
This sort of transition is to be expected from businesses involved in genuine open source projects. The guaranteed freedoms around the code ensure that user needs are protected and the companies resulting from corporate change are largely unable to perform competitive mischief (such as leaving shell companies to act as patent trolls, as seems to be happening in Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia).
This article, "Suse drops LibreOffice -- and Collabora picks it up," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.