Can Apache OpenOffice Still Compete with LibreOffice?

It used to be that OpenOffice.org was the leading open source alternative to proprietary productivity suites like Microsoft Office, and it was included in pretty much all the major Linux distributions.

apache openoffice
Then Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, and OpenOffice fell onto hard times.

That, in turn, is what spawned the creation of LibreOffice; and I think it's fair to say that most users haven't looked back since.

Yes, Oracle ended up donating OpenOffice to the community via the Apache Software Foundation (ASF); and yes, IBM has thrown its support behind the effort.

Meanwhile, we've seen LibreOffice skyrocket to new heights with the support of Google and most major distributions even as funding pleas and quibbling have bogged down the OpenOffice side.

'A Daunting Task'

This week, the picture got even more complicated when Apache OpenOffice announced a long-awaited update.

"With the donation of OpenOffice.org to the ASF, the foundation, and especially the podling project, was given a daunting task: re-energize a community and transform OpenOffice from a codebase of unknown intellectual property heritage, to a vetted and Apache-licensed software suite," said Jim Jagielski, ASF president and an Apache OpenOffice project mentor, in the official announcement.

"The release of Apache OpenOffice 3.4 shows just how successful the project has been: pulling in developers from over 21 corporate affiliations, while avoiding undue influence which is the death-knell of true open source communities; building a solid and stable codebase, with significant improvement and enhancements over other variants; and, of course, creating a healthy, vibrant and diverse user and developer community," Jagielski added.

Outside reactions haven't been quite so cheerful, however.

'Does Anyone Care?'

“Apache OpenOffice 3.4 Arrives. Does Anyone Care?” was one headline greeting the new release, and similar sentiments could be heard in comment sections across the board.

To be sure, the new Apache OpenOffice 3.4 brings some key new things to the table, including faster startup, a speedier linear programming solver, an Apache Tomcat update, and much more.

But does any of it really matter, now that LibreOffice has been adopted so widely?

I'm not so sure. I think OpenOffice may have missed the boat, in fact--LibreOffice has moved on, and the community with it.

What's your take? Does OpenOffice still have a role to play?

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