OpenOffice 2.0 and Java

Henrik Nilsen Omma henrik at gotadsl.co.uk
Tue Mar 29 14:26:13 CST 2005


Craig Adams wrote:

>Without going into details regarding the differences wrt Open Source and
>Free Software and the positions certain parties take, lets grab the
>squirrel by the proverbial nuts.
>  
>
OK, let's do that, but let's grab both: contribution and ownership. Yes, 
Sun is the largest contributor both historically and currently, but they 
are also in the best position to take advantage of OOo. Sun released OOo 
under a FOSS license, but they still retained _copyright_ of the code 
(is it also the case that they assume copyright of all new 
contributions? Correct me if I'm  wrong.) They also own the OOo 
trademarks, domains, pay for the infrastructure and the key developers 
(ie. decision makers). That means they have a large degree of control.

Because they own the code, they are in a unique position to license it 
any way they want. They can link it in with any proprietary libraries 
they choose and sell it as a superior product called StarOffice. Nobody 
else can do that (though  commercial operators like Red Hat and Novel 
will always get licenses for a price). If OpenOffice becomes 
increasingly dependent on Java (or any other proprietary bits) it will 
become more difficult for independent vendors to build competitive versions.

If you wanted to take an outdated product, release it for 10 years as 
open source to have the community help you make it cutting edge, only to 
close it up again and sell it as a proprietary solution for profit, then 
this is how you would do it (not that I'm the cynical sort of course). 
Someone who was really cynical would say that this would be a good way 
to spread Linux/Solaris at the expense of Windows, spearheaded by the 
killer app which is the office suite (always), but making sure that you 
retain control of the way the suite interacts with the OS so that when 
the time comes, you are in a position to offer the only solution where 
those two work truly well together (because you own enough of both 
parts; sound familiar?)

I really don't want to turn up the temperature needlessly here, but I 
think that if we are talking about realities, we should cover them all. 
Sun and the FOSS community are currently working together in an uneasy 
trust. The FOSS community appreciates that Sun released OOo and 
continues to support it, but also recognizes that Sun holds all the 
strings, and has nearly all the power. Even the forking option is very 
weak because Sun will always own most of the code.  The FOSS community 
has only one power card and that the possibility of withdrawing support 
and goodwill (which would kill the momentum that Sun needs).  However, 
most people will be reluctant to go that far because we really do need a 
good office suite and if relations start breaking down everybody looses.

So I think we should appeal to Sun to play nice: ask them to make it 
possible for us to compile and distribute OOo in a way that is 
compatible with our principles and we will be happy to promote our 
common product. But to do that, we might have to make it clear that we 
understand where the different power elements lie. When we are asking 
them to separate OOo from Java or open source Java we must demonstrate 
that we realize what the true cost will be for Sun in terms of future 
options (and earnings; Sun is a for-profit company). Only then can we 
hope to have our requests listened to.

>Until there are enough independent developers contributing to
>OpenOffice.org, the Sun way of doing things will prevail. 
>  
>
This is made slightly difficult by the ownership issue though. No large 
organization wants to make huge contributions to a project that will 
always be controlled by a competitor, and it might dampen the enthusiasm 
of volunteers too.

>Personally, I would prefer that either Sun release the various Java
>components as Free Software (probably will not to happen in the
>foreseeable future) or the Java dependencies be replaced by other code
>(possible, depending upon the efforts of independent developers).
>
Yes, that would be great for us, but what would Sun gain by that? In the 
current situation it would only erode their position of control. Frankly 
I don't see them doing either of those unless the pressure from the 
community is vocal and clear (and then only the second version seems 
likely).

- Henrik



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