Larry Ellison has his $1 billion-plus bank account, his 450-foot yacht, and his five-acre private lake on the grounds of his sprawling, $200 million faux Japanese palace. But he no longer has OpenOffice, and what a satisfying development that is. Oracle's decision to give up on commercial exploiting of the open source productivity suite and turn over the code to "a purely community-based open source project" is a fitting end to the ugly coda that followed the death of Sun Microsystems and a triumph of creativity over greed.
Ellison's treatment of open source since the Sun acquisition has been nothing short of reprehensible, and it made me really mad. The man who promised to be a good steward to Sun's treasure trove of technology tried to pull a fast one by taking OpenOffice, a very viable and free alternative to Microsoft's bloated, way-too-expensive Microsoft Office, and turning it just another commercial product.
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Maybe, just maybe, you could find an excuse for that. After all, Oracle did pay $7.4 billion for the faltering Sun in 2009. But there was absolutely no excuse for the way OpenOffice developers were treated -- or for pulling the Sun ODF plug-in. The free plug-in ensured document capability between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice. Instead, Oracle released Oracle ODF Plug-In for Microsoft Office and slapped a $90 price tag on it, with a minimum order of 100 units -- a move that effectively orphaned users who didn't want to pay the premium.
Think of the problems that caused for IT shops that had pushed OpenOffice as a money-saving alternative. (Links to the Oracle plug-in, as well as to other Oracle Open Office links, now appear to be dead.)