A Rivalry Emerges As Apache Asserts OpenOffice Plans

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There's been much uncertainty surrounding OpenOffice.org ever since Oracle decided back in June to donate the open source office productivity project to the Apache Software Foundation.

Given that the Document Foundation's LibreOffice fork of the software has been thriving on its own in the meantime, it has been far from clear whether there's enough sustainable interest to keep both projects going.

It's LibreOffice, not its older sibling, that's recently been embraced by most of the major Linux distributions, for example. LibreOffice has also won the support of Google.

Following a plea for funding help from some of its German developers back in October, however, it looks like OpenOffice.org is still alive and kicking, and the Apache Software Foundation on Tuesday announced its plans and ideas for the software.

'A Collaboration Opportunity'

“Apache OpenOffice (Incubating) is progressing well as a podling in the Apache Incubator with a rapidly growing community and project infrastructure,” begins the foundation's open letter to the Open Document Format (ODF) community.

Given the large size of the global ODF ecosystem, however, “it is impossible to agree upon a single vision for all participants,” the group explained. As a result, Apache OpenOffice has no intention of trying to define a single vision for the software, or of trying to be the only player, it says.

Because of Apache's license and open development model, the group's OpenOffice project offers much greater potential for the software than to be simply a Microsoft Office alternative, it adds. Instead, “we offer a vendor neutral space in which to collaborate whilst enabling third parties to pursue almost any for-profit or not-for-profit business model.”

Targeting a Q1 2012 Release

The Apache OpenOffice project says it is now tentatively targeting a first-quarter 2012 time frame for the next release of the software, which will be version 3.4.

LibreOffice, meanwhile, released its own version 3.4.4 in November; its first bug-hunting sessions for version 3.5 are slated for late December.

In the meantime, the Apache Software Foundation emphasized that participants in the project must abide by its policies for using its trademarks so that they are not used “in confusing ways.”

Presumably in response to Team OpenOffice.org's funding plea from October, the group also wrote that “we wish to make it clear that no third party has been given approval to solicit donations of any kind on behalf of the Apache Software Foundation or any of its projects, including OpenOffice.org.”

'White Label Office 3.3.1'

Making all this even more interesting--and, it must be said, confusing--is that Germany-based Team OpenOffice.org on Wednesday published a release candidate based on OpenOffice.org 3.3.0 that it has called “White Label Office 3.3.1."

Why the mysterious name? “Because the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) holds the trademark rights of the brand 'OpenOffice.org',” the German developers explained. “Team OpenOffice.org and the ASF could not reach an agreement for a shared usage. By publishing White Label Office 3.3.1, Team OpenOffice.org is taking the first step towards a maintenance release for OpenOffice.org 3.3.0.”

Is that the smell of yet another fork in the works? Time will tell. In the meantime, I'm sticking with LibreOffice.

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