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Novell: Thanks, Sun, for All the Hard Work on OpenOffice.org. We’ll Take Over from Here.

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, LGPL, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, SLES/SLED, SUN, Windows at 3:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Possible sources of tension between Novell and Sun are numerous. However, they have traditionally gotten along just fine when it comes to OpenOffice.org.

Recently we spotted some cheeky activity from Novell's Micheal Meeks. Novell is still trying to gain control and it’s problematic for a plethora of reasons. As shown before, Novell supports OOXML and it is also paid by Microsoft to obey its needs for OpenOffice.org (patent ‘tax’, OOXML ‘enhancements’, Windows 'advantage', et cetera).

Now comes this interview that everyone seems to be talking about.

derStandard.at: Coming back to the question of copyright assignment: Isn’t Novell doing the same with some of its own projects like Mono?

Meeks [of Novell]: That’s a really good question. If you look at Mono, it’s true that Novell has a stated company policy of requiring copyright assignment for the core – the JIT – which is some tiny proportion of the code, less than 15 percent. So Mono is a huge thing, there are the class libraries, there is all this infrastructure, all these pieces are usable in other places. It’s the core that is kept LPGL and it’s done so for commercial reasons and we are very upfront about that. So if you want to contribute to Mono, you can contribute in 80+ percent of the project without assigning rights to anyone. We’d love that to be the case with OpenOffice.org, honestly.

Sun is actually trying to push the problem off to plug-ins, by not requiring copyright assignment there. So the software ships pretty broken and in order to actually open your document you have to be online and download this thing from the public extension repository. And the OpenOffice.org user experience is already bad enough without anyone saying “your are going to have to install this, go to this webpage, look at our advert and then download it”.

derStandard.at: Which parts are you referring to?

Meeks: Interestingly there are several pieces which are deliberately not installed by default to drive traffic to the plug-ins-site. There is this thing called “report builder”, which is really a key part of the database thing. So as you get where it should be it says “There is something which isn’t here, why don’t you get it from the plug-in repository” and that’s just an appalling user experience, there is no need for that, it doesn’t offer you any efficiency wins.

derStandard.at: Being fed up with the current situation with Sun, you seem to be pushing harder for your own OpenOffice.org version with Go-oo.

Meeks: That’s right.

Matt Asay, who occasionally bashes OpenOffice.org, sidles with his former employer Novell, perhaps not realising the danger of Microsoft controlling OpenOffice.org transitively.

As further reading material consider:

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A Single Comment

  1. mike said,

    July 28, 2008 at 8:36 pm


    Wow. That’s rich. All of the proprietary companies doing ‘open sauce’ require copyright assignment. And especially Novell. For all of them it is a commercial decision to try to recoup on their investment. It is also about IP projection on a couple of levels. So litigation is easier (or at least, possible), and to ensure the contributor is held accountable for code contributed (e.g. tainted stuff). It isn’t limited to proprietary vendors or projects for these reasons.

    He also goes on to question Sun’s trustworthiness – which may be valid to question, but is rather rich coming from Novell which has been shown to be anything but.

    If they already have a fork they can do whatever they want – there’s no technical reason for this verballing of their coopetator. I hope it was just a loose tongue – this sort of wedge politics is just slimy and despicable and the sort of thing best left to MS.

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