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Novell and OpenOffice.org — Harming, Helping, or Just Exploiting?

Posted in Deception, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, SUN at 1:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell’s promotion of Microsoft OOXML and bringing of Microsoft .NET (Mono) closer to OpenOffice.org hasn’t escaped developers’ attention. Moreover, their confrontation with Sun Microsystems over control of the project was quite nasty [1, 2, 3, 4]. Novell was seen as self-serving at the time.

Novell has a double commitment. On the one hand, it is a partner of Microsoft, so sales of Microsoft Office are important, even if they are defended through elevation of Microsoft formats. On the other hand, Novell works with Sun, which competes against Novell and Microsoft on several fronts while also collaborating. The question is: in which way would Novell lean?

According to recent communication among OpenOffice.org developers, Novell may slowly be alienating itself. Consider, for instance, what Michael Meeks writes.

Hmm, “they are in alpha, beta, whatever stage” :-) I beg to differ. Yes – some of the patches in ooo-build are experimental, but we [Novell] disable these by default on stable branches so they are not applied. Everything else that is applied to our product Novell offers L3 support for – if you find something broken, we will fix it (well, if you’re a paying customer – but we’re interested in bugs of course anyway).

Interestingly, when you look at our L3 work-load, only a tiny fraction of our bugs are specific to our changes – almost all are present in the “conservative” up-stream OO.o. Conversely, in many other cases the fix for a bug is not in the “conservative” up-stream OO.o – so up-stream users suffer it, but not ours :-)

That is of course just selfish, but it’s part of a broader picture. The thread as a whole is worth seeing.

GNOME CalcThe basic premises of Michael Meeks are a lie. OpenOffice.org versions that are produced by the Novell build system are typically much buggier than the ‘vanillas’.

More importantly, the thread above teaches us about that old admission that Novell is refusing to contribute to the codebase of OpenOffice.org. It then accuses Sun Microsystems of standing in its way (see the links at the very top again). Not nice.

Novell is not a team player. It did, after all, sell out the GNU/Linux ecosystem as well, did it not?

With ‘friends’ like these, who needs Microsoft?


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  1. Ian said,

    July 17, 2008 at 2:24 pm


    “OpenOffice.org versions that are produced by the Novell build system are typically much buggier than the ‘vanillas’.”

    You should probably support this with evidence, unless I missed it.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 17, 2008 at 2:33 pm


    A short example, not very scientific, but empiric of this: the ooo-build is used for every GNU/Linux distribution out there by default (now you can go to the OOo web site and download the “vanilla builds”. Run those two versions, and perhaps easier, test out your original OOo on Linux and the one on Windows (vanilla build again). You’ll see for yourself.

  3. aeshna23 said,

    July 18, 2008 at 12:02 am


    Ian, I don’t view the relative bugginess of OOo as the major point of this article. It’s understandable why Roy went off on that particular tangent. There is a human tendency to get wound up in one’s own advocacy and without it I don’t know that Roy would put in the excellent work he does here. Without having any experience of OOo on Novell myself, I think Roy should have left out the word “much” before “buggier”. Defensive rhetoric like defensive driving is a good idea.

  4. David Gerard said,

    July 19, 2008 at 6:17 am


    The important thing to remember is that the Novell ooo-build has existed since the Ximian days, not just because of their copyright assignment rules but because it was such a pain in the backside to get anything into the Sun build. Sun wanted the advantages of a bazaar but very much ran OOo as a cathedral.

    (I don’t think highly of Sun’s requirement of copyright assignment for OOo contributions, but then I’m not impressed by Novell requiring the same for Mono contributions.)

  5. Balzac said,

    July 19, 2008 at 9:45 am


    Roy, I appreciate that you’re watching Novell closely because their problem is not one of divided loyalties, they know who they work for.

    This loyalty to Microsoft share holders will manifest its self in myriad ways, and one of those ways is unhelpful and even subversive methods of engagement to the major component projects that make up the GNU/Linux software ecosystem.

    Their participation in Open Office development is particularly interesting because of Microsoft’s enormous revenue from sales of MS Office licenses. Their development of support for OOXML is not something I want to see pushed up-stream into core OOo functionality. I hope OOXML and Mono wither on the vine because Microsoft is deliberately obstructing innovation and computer user’s freedom.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    July 19, 2008 at 12:14 pm


    Thanks, Balzac. Keep an eye on iTWire. Sam will post an analytical article about Mono. It’s time to share some answers.

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