Several open-source foundations stand out for having created strong developer communities, including the Eclipse Foundation and the Apache Foundation.
IBM would likely support this model, having been integral to the formation of both. Despite IBM's continued strong presence in Apache, the group is viewed "as an example of a developer-controlled meritocracy," McCreesh said.
A potential obstacle: the OpenOffice.org source code has long been fairly monolithic, making it difficult for projects to be divvied up even if more developers were available. OpenOffice.org has been trying to fix this, though.
Attract big corporations
Vendors supporting OpenOffice.org today include Novell, Red Hat, RedFlag CH2000, IBM, Google Inc. and Sun. But judging by OpenOffice.org's shoestring budget, those contributions pale compared to the largesse enjoyed by the Linux Foundation.
The group, whose most famous employee is Linus Torvalds, has a thriving roster of corporate sponsors.
The Linux Foundation has eight platinum members who pay $500,000 a year: Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, IBM, Intel, NEC, Novell and Oracle. It has seven gold members, who pay $100,000 a year: AMD, Cisco Systems, ETRI, Google, Motorola, NetApp, and Nokia. And it has 26 silver members, who each pay $5,000 to $20,000 annually.
Based on that, the Linux Foundation brings in between $4.8 million and $5.2 million a year from corporate sponsors. That does not include the investment in developer hours and marketing time from all the vendors.
As a niche application, OpenOffice.org lacks Linux's name recognition and its wide technical importance. Still, it has weighty symbolism, being a key challenger to one of Microsoft's traditional profit pillars, Office. That should attract some of Microsoft's many foes.
"With the right governance around OpenOffice.org, I am certain that lots of other companies would step up, support and help drive OpenOffice.org in a way that they currently do not," Meeks said.