IBM, Sun and OpenOffice.org

During the ongoing flirtation between IBM and Sun Microsystems, little has been said about OpenOffice.org, which has been viewed as one of the less significant parts of Sun's open source portfolio.

Part of the logic of IBM's absorption of an old version of OpenOffice.org into Lotus Symphony was that it was able to include modifications and enhancements to such things as the import/export filters that it had been unable to get into the OpenOffice.org tree.

Eclipse of the Sun

OpenOffice.org is by no means a failure, but because the project is open both Sun and OpenOffice.org have been the subject of public scrutiny. Sun has dedicated resources and 50 personnel to the development of OpenOffice.org. It is complex, and contains many million lines of code, and is more than adequate to the needs of most users.

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Similarly, because Meeks is an employee of Novell, his call for a more open community approach to OpenOffice.org development has met with cries of betrayal and worse notwithstanding Novell's contribution of 10 developers to the project.

If Heintzman is to be taken at his word IBM's prospective (and as yet hypothetical) acquisition of Sun Microsystems could well give Meeks and other developers the chance to confirm their belief that a truly open developer-driven community centred around an independent foundation has the capacity to rejuvenate and enhance OpenOffice.org, following in the footsteps of IBM's previous success with The Eclipse Foundation.

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Such a scenario would encourage the involvement of other corporations with a vested interest in a commodified office suite, and in the view of Meeks and others, would encourage the participation of independent free software developers, translators, users and testers, who would have the opportunity to see their efforts rewarded by inclusion in the code.

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As it is expressed on Go-Open Office, the contribution of code "is simple, and fast, following the traditional hackers' process of peer code review: just mail patches to the mailing list, or when we get used to your code - commit your patch immediately to HEAD ooo-build: no CWS, no hours of tagging, paperwork, no specification, no hassle. Of course - if your patch sucks - expect to hear how it can be improved."

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