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From "Allen Pulsifer" <>
Subject RE: Apache Incubator Proposal
Date Fri, 03 Jun 2011 13:31:49 GMT
>  (3)  There is even talk as to why?  I'm also curious as to why they would
need or want to transfer the project to Apache.

Only the person who made that decision knows the answer, and if you ask
them, you might get an answer, and it might even be the real answer.  But
you never know.

I will offer you my analysis though as a neutral observer, which might help
with the understanding.

It is not an uncommon model for companies to take a program they own and
release an open-source version while continuing to sell a proprietary
version that includes additional features and technical support.  Among
other reasons:

- Build a community around the application, hoping to upsell organizations
to the proprietary version.

- Get bug reports and code contributions that they can use in the
proprietary version.

Sun acquired the StarOffice program by acquiring the company that created
it.  That is a common reason for one company to acquire another: to acquire
the company's technology.  It has been said that Sun was looking for an
office suite for SunOS, both for Sun's customers and for Sun's own
employees.  Acquiring StarOffice met that need at a reasonable cost.

After acquiring StarOffice, Sun released an open source version called
OpenOffice, for the reasons listed above.  As mentioned in a prior post, Sun
required all community contributions to the open source version to include a
copyright assignment to Sun, so they could use those contributions in their
proprietary version.  This was rigorously enforced.

Oracle acquired Sun, primarily it is said to acquire Sun's Java and MySQL
products.  StarOffice and OpenOffice came along for the ride.  Oracle
continued to sell StarOffice, but changed the name to Oracle Open Office,
and continued the open source version, just like Sun, using the same
employees.  Oracle also envisioned creating an online version of Open Office
that would be similar to Google Docs.

Neither of the plans worked out.  Over at Oracle, sales and marketing runs
the show, not the engineers.  The Oracle sales force, which is accustomed to
being paid big commissions for large dollar sales, was not happy pushing a
$35 per seat office suite.  Meanwhile, little headway was made turning the
bloated and complex code into an online version.  Oracle gave the program a
short time frame to show $$$ results, and it did not make the cut.  So they
pulled the plug.

Meanwhile, Oracle has this open source community inherited from Sun, to
which they had been paying lip service.  In order to avoid a complete
public-relations disaster, Oracle declared, "we are going to turn this
project over to the open source community".  In addition, Oracle also has a
relationship with IBM, who had taken the code, under license from Sun, and
created their own proprietary derivative, IBM Lotus Symphony.  It has been
said that Oracle has some sort of contractual obligation to IBM to continue
development of the code, although I don't know if that is true or not or
what the terms of that agreement are.

IBM has had more success with IBM Lotus Symphony than Sun had with
StarOffice.  Symphony is an important product in the IBM portfolio, and they
were not going to drop it.  IBM also wished to continue the basic structure
Sun had in place and from which IBM has also been benefitting: a proprietary
version along with open source version.  IBM recognized however that Sun's
prior system of requiring a copyright assignment had led to dissatisfaction
in the open source community and eventually to a fork.  So they decided to
change the arrangement to an Apache License, which was more symmetrical and
which had worked for many other projects, including projects IBM has been
involved in.  IBM probably selected the Apache Software Foundation as a
place to host the project for similar reasons.  This arrangement also
satisfied Oracle's stated intention to "turn the code over to the open
source community".

So here was are.

It has been asked whether this is simply a code dump.  For Oracle, it is
exactly that.  They do not care about the code and are simply unloading it.
The primary driver of this proposal through is IBM, not Oracle.  For IBM, it
may or not be a code dump--I can't say for sure either way.  I personally do
not believe it is a code dump.  I personally believe that IBM wants
OpenOffice to continue as an open source project for exactly the reasons
listed above.  I'm not so naive to believe IBM is acting altruistically, but
I believe that as long as IBM continues to get the desired benefits from it,
they will continue to be involved in the open source project.  If however
the benefits do not materialize, there is a definite possibility IBM might
pull out, leaving the project to whomever remains.

It has been asked whether Oracle employees will still be involved or
permitted to be involved in the project on their own time.  To answer that
question, I think you need to look no further than the activity over at  As soon as Oracle pulled the plug, activity came to a
virtual halt.  (Note, some work may have continued behind the scenes.  Some
have attributed that to the fact that the StarOffice team was located in
Germany, where the law prohibits simply laying off employees.  It might also
be possible that Oracle is continuing work toward an online office suite,
even though they pulled the plug on StarOffice/OpenOffice.  I don't know.)
It seems clear however that Oracle either instructed all of their employees
to stop work on OpenOffice, or they made it clear that continuing to work on
it, even on their own time, would be a career killer.  So I think it is safe
to say, at this point in time, the Oracle employees who know this code best
will not be contributing to this project, even on their own time.


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