When I was a little boy, there was a feminist joke about a woman without a man being like a fish without a bicycle, and the same logic may apply to the OpenOffice group. There may be absolutely no reason for the continuation of the association, and all that Oracle money may not make one iota of difference to the development process.

The whys about that, for those that have not followed the saga of OpenOffice since the sale of Sun to Oracle, may not be readily apparent.

It begins with the disclosure that all those within the OpenOffice group were not happy with the sale of Sun to Oracle before the deal was ever finalized, and that many were secretly wishing that IBM had gotten the nod instead. With the announcement of the acquisition by Oracle, OpenOffice personnel were extricating themselves from the upcoming perceived mess, and in doing so, created The Document Foundation, with its baby, LibreOffice.

There is also the problem of OpenOffice becoming a commercial product, as Oracle went through a period of wanting to monetize absolutely everything, going so far as to ask ridiculous sums of money for Open Document Format plug-ins, which had begun their lives as free downloads. That idea has gone the way of the dodo however, as Oracle has scrapped all the plans for that, including the cloud office portions, which were, for a time, being heavily promoted. Several longstanding URLs dedicated to the promotion of the commercial Oracle Office product, which was to be completely rewritten using proprietary JavaFX, have gone completely 404.

The Register, where this news originally came from, offers no explanation for the outwardly sudden change of direction, and wonders if it was a religious conversion –

Oracle offered no reason for its sudden change on Friday. Oracle may well have had a Saul-like road-to-Damascus conversion to the principles of open source. Sources close to the company have been telling us lately that Oracle has realized it has taken needless lumps for its actions on open source and Java, and is learning how to work with the open source projects it inherited from Sun.

With the long held values, and direction of Oracle, shown clearly by Mr. Ellison, that sort of change is doubtful. It is much more likely that Oracle wishes to cut its losses, seeing that the remaining OpenOffice crew may have been near a mutiny, or perhaps simply realizing that Oracle’s fate was not expressly tied to being the everything-to-everyone corporation. (Microsoft already has those delusions of grandeur.)

While The Document Foundation appears to be doing nicely on its own, the continued work of that body is not absolutely certain, as all the monetary streams flowing inwards are not known. OpenOffice was always dependent on the largesse of Sun, and it is uncertain how long the new, lighter OpenOffice team, with or without a recombination with their mates that formed The Document Foundation, can survive in the world without a sugar daddy.

Will OpenOffice strike out on its own, alone? Are the ties to Oracle simply being loosened, and we are misinterpreting the words of the Oracle spokesperson? Or will OpenOffice and LibreOffice recombine to become a more formidable product, where the adrenalin rush of the recombination pushes them to new heights?

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