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From Ian Lynch <ianrly...@gmail.com>
Subject Re: OpenOffice.org Apache Incubator Proposal
Date Fri, 03 Jun 2011 14:01:41 GMT
On 3 June 2011 14:31, Allen Pulsifer <pulsifer@openoffice.org> wrote:

> >  (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
> OpenOffice.org.  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.
>
> Allen
>

So the safest community strategy is to develop community driven business
models that can sustain the project. I said this back in 2004 and went off
to do it because of no understanding in the community leaders or Sun at the
time.  If 10% of the effort put into the project was in developing
sustainable service businesses around the product it would be very likely
that the project could become independent of large companies. Certification,
merchandising and support are all possible revenue streams but they need
strategic planning, expertise and focus. It isn't all about hacking. I think
the dependency on large companies that started with Sun has to come to an
end if the project is not to be constantly vulnerable to the whims of one or
two individual interests.
-- 
Ian

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