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Novell's OpenOffice.org FUD Rallies Disruptors

Broken bridge
Novell & Microsoft: building bridges



WHILST one person pushes Novell's Mono into Ubuntu, another lobbies to push Novell's fork [1, 2, 3, 4] of OpenOffice.org into Ubuntu. Why? We wrote about this phony controversy earlier.

I was considering filing a bug for package request or creating a spec for Go-Ooo.org for inclusion in Ubuntu, or possibly as a replacement for OpenOffice.org vanilla. Start-up time is faster and feature set is expanded.

There seems to be some contention between the world in general and Sun over OOo; people have forked or threatened to fork the project several times, and Go-OOo seems to be the most active as far as I can tell. I'm not sure where this will lead in the future-- possibly to a stagnating OOo from Sun and then to a completely different office suite, or possibly to a new fork, or possibly to Go-OOo, or possibly to some improvement in community view and/or management of Sun's OOo-- but I think the current political atmosphere and the availability of a more featureful fork warrants some investigation.

Has anyone else tried this thing? I'm curious to know any opinions (political and technical, but please if you must pick one than go more technical than political) on the software, as well as any "better" or "more active" forks out there, or other viable alternatives entirely.


The followup states:

Aaaand some more googling around brings up claims that the version in Ubuntu's repositories -is- Go-oo ... https://answers.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/openoffice.org/+question/14965

That threw me, because Go-oo purports to not be Sun branded, and Ubuntu's OOo splash screen uses Sun's branding last I checked...

Ah well. The question still stands.


It's important not to give Novell control of the office suite in Ubuntu. Novell already has virtual control of many applications in Ubuntu (through Mono, on which they are built) and Mark Shuttleworth does not respond to known risks, despite the fact that Groklaw's editor, for example, says: “What Shuttleworth may not understand is that a patent troll can be a proxy for someone else who does have something to lose."

To an extent, Mono is a questionable first step because it 'wraps' many vital applications with an underlying layer whose evolution Microsoft pretty much controls (.NET is a model for Mono to follow) and legal terms are volatile.

“What if Novell was acquired? What if it was a hostile takeover?”One must remember that Microsoft need not necessarily sue as it can apply the "it's too similar" [1, 2] argument (like SCO with UNIX versus Linux) to openly accuse Linux users/vendors of "stealing" Microsoft's "innovations" without providing appropriate "compensation". Evidence is less of an issue this way because less work is required to produce some, even if the evidence is largely perceptual.

It must never be forgotten that Microsoft continues paying Novell a lot of money (100 million dollar this year, depending on how one views it). Novell's Linux business is still just a fragment of its overall picture (less than 20%) and Novell is operating at a considerable loss, so it very much depends on those payments and any strategic lifts it can receive from Microsoft.

Should we trust Novell? Short term? Long term? What if Novell was acquired? What if it was a hostile takeover?

On the other hand we have Sun. It's no saint, but those who defend Novell typically resort to just exaggerating the issues with Sun simply because they find themselves unable to defend some of Microsoft & Novell's shameless actions. Let's remember how Novell marketed itself by offering "IP peace of mind" (for SUSE)?

Microsoft will try to put Novell in (greater) control of GNU/Linux distributions because Novell plays by Microsoft's rules, namely software patents, Microsoft protocols/APIs and so on and so forth. This is dangerous and Jose_X explained why, independently expressing a similar point of view:

Sun is no angel, but in this particular battle of "evil" corporations (Sun vs Novell rivalry), they are the one offering checks on the biggest threat to FOSS by far (on Monopolysoft), and they aren't doing too bad of a job with OO.o, either. Keep perspective, people. Let MicroScrooge spend real monopoly money. Give free help to other Office suites if not to OO.o (if you want to contribute to such software/community). If you don't like Java, OO.o, Sun, etc, there are alternatives less influenced by Monopolysoft than what Novell produces.

Imagine Microsoft losing their huge leverage and huge MSOffice market! Free OO.o is a real threat. Neutralize it? Allow Microsoft to leverage it? Not a chance. Avoid Monopolysoft's embrace and extensions. Petition Novell to dump their "partner". They should be competing against Microsoft and not with them. Novell can play the same game Sun is playing by opening up Netware and beefing up their services. [One of evil Sun's saving graces is OO.o and Java to the extent these really do help free Linux/FOSS and/or dent Monopolysoft's levers and revenues.]


It all boils down to trust. A community divided against itself is the best thing Microsoft could hope for. It is the best thing Novell's ally could hope for. It is the best thing Novell's big funding source could hope for. It wants infighting and it wants to have a hand on the spigot of patches, even if only an intermediately does this trick. At least one journalist has described Novell as the role player who commits GPL code 'on behalf' of Microsoft, or for their own benefit.

“A community divided against itself is the best thing Microsoft could hope for.”As stated earlier on, we urge everyone to go to the go-oo Web site and read the first sentence. It's all about OpenXML [sic] (OOXML) and VBA. Microsoft understands that by controlling mindshare and standards -- usually de facto ones -- it can win the war. Why else have Microsoft bloggers begun promoting Moonlight and -- to a lesser extent -- Mono too? Everyone ought to know that Robert Scoble, a former Microsoft evangelist, once wrote: "I saw that internally inside Microsoft many times when I was told to stay away from supporting Mono in public. They reserve the right to sue."

Is OpenOffice.org without flaws? Of course not. But better the small devil whom we know than an ally of the Big Devil, who competes head-to-head with OpenOffice/StarOffice and has billions of dollars at stake. Office is one of the few Microsoft products that are actually profitable and by far the most profitable.

This is just the beginning of Novell & Microsoft, whose relationship gradually grows. Here are a couple of statements made in 2008. Ron Hovsepian, Novell's CEO, said that their partnership with Microsoft continued to expand and more recently he said that "[the partnership with Microsoft is] going very well insofar as we originally agreed to co-operate on three distinct projects and now we’re working on nine projects and there’s a good list of 19 other projects that we plan to co-operate on."

One's trust in Novell must never be seen as totally separable from trust in its partner, which gets closer to it as time goes by.

"I have lost my sleep and peace of mind for last two months over these distasteful activities by Microsoft."

--Professor Deepak Phatak

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