What Might Oracle Do With OpenOffice?

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 20, 2009

In a post earlier this morning, I wondered why, amidst all the talk of Oracle buying Sun Microsystems, nobody is discussing the impact that it may have on OpenOffice. The OpenOffice open source suite of productivity applications hasn't been the huge success that many predicted it would be early on, but it has gotten better and better, and more compatible with Microsoft's applications. As Oracle becomes the steward of it, there are a lot of interesting scenarios to think about, including possible moves by Oracle to compete more directly with Microsoft Office. Does Oracle have an opportunity here?

Although most analysts of the Oracle/Sun deal are focusing on MySQL and Java, Sun actually has a huge portfolio of software applications, ranging from virtualization applications to the Glassfish application server. Sun has remained the steward of OpenOffice.org for many years, and with Oracle taking over that stewardship, the company can potentially make moves in parts of the desktop application business where it hasn't been a player.

The OpenOffice.org team has already weighed in on the Oracle/Sun deal, but there isn't much meat to what they've said, beyond expressing optimism. John MCreesh, OpenOffice.org's marketing lead, told ZDNet U.K. that he is "pleased that the uncertainty is coming to an end," and added:

"We've been very comfortable with the way that Sun set up the project and has kept a careful eye on us over the years. They'll be a hard act to follow, but we'll approach the future with optimism and an open mind."

Wow, that sounds like a strong dose of PR. Oracle has a long history of competing fiercely with Microsoft, and the two software titans are nearly the same age. Microsoft has been busy making its Office applications available online. Might that be a promising path for Oracle to go down with OpenOffice?

We've covered Ulteo before. The company lets users log into and use OpenOffice 3 applications from remote desktops online, and provides free storage for the files that they create. Oracle could possibly lead a similar effort on a larger scale, and the company has often spoken of the value of "the network computer," where applications exist in the cloud, and not locally.

There are really quite a few directions that Oracle could go in with OpenOffice. Novell already backs development of a fork of OpenOffice called go-oo, which we covered here. It's generally lighter and faster than OpenOffice. Might Oracle deliver a customized version of the suite, and throw support behind it? So far, there is no word on OpenOffice from Oracle or Sun, but there are millions of OpenOffice users, and change may lie ahead for them.