Monday Sep 10, 2007

The ecosystem and the StarOffice distro

People often ask what the difference is between and StarOffice. This question has been popping up more often after Google's announcement that it would distribute StarOffice for free as part of the Google Pack of desktop applications.

Here's my take on this, gathered from my colleagues on the OpenOffice and StarOffice teams, especially Louis Suarez-Potts, Community Manager. is a community Open Source project, released under the Lesser General Public License. Anyone can download either the binary or the source and redistribute them, at no charge, subject to the restrictions of the license. Sun is the biggest contributor to this project, but by no means the only one. Sun's contribution to this project is its gift to the world.

Like the Linux community, the community encourages others to develop their own distributions -- “distros” -- of the software by picking and choosing from its modules, and by adding their own modules. StarOffice is such a distro, created by taking the core, and adding various commercially-oriented modules, such as an advanced spellchecker licensed from a third party. The fact that Sun Microsystems created the StarOffice distro, and charges for it, does not mean that Sun considers StarOffice to be more “official” that, any more than Debian or Ubuntu is more “official” than the Linux kernel. StarOffice is just oriented toward a particular market segment.

There are other distros that target other markets. Sun created another distro called StarSuite that is oriented toward the Asian market. NeoOffice is an independent distro that has been ported to the Macintosh Aqua user interface. Novell created its own distro as well. The Google Pack StarOffice distro is a non-commercial version that is limited to Windows platforms.

The ecosystem encompasses all these distros, and also includes many indpendent vendors who provide support, training, consulting and other services for the various distros. Sun sells support and other services for, StarOffice and StarSuite, and cooperates with independent support vendors in various markets. We take pride in our major contribution to this ever-growing, open ecosystem.


Sunday Aug 12, 2007 and linguistic diversity

We were talking with our son in Dubai on the weekend, and he pointed out how striking it is over there that English is the worls's lingua franca now. Dubai is a mashup of people from dozens of cultures, and they all communicate with each other in English. As my son pointed out, the British Empire started this trend, and the pervasive influence of media has only strengthened it.

I think it's clear that the computer is one medium that has accelerated this trend, through the Internet, but I think there is a happy counter-trend, too. Yes, the computer has solidified the place of English as the world's language of commerce, but it has also had the beneficial effect of preserving and encouraging the use of suppressed and waning languages. I like to think that is playing a useful role here. is one of the most globalized pieces of software in existence, with ongoing community-based localization projects in more than 80 languages. Take a look here at a list of the projects.

I was particularly impressed with OO.o's level of commitment to native language support when I read about the upcoming Conference (OOoCon 2007) in Barcelona. As the conference site notes, over the last seven years, the Barcelona-based OpenOffice Catalan localization team has distributed over 2 million copies of in Catalan. When you realize that Catalan was actively suppressed under the Franco regime, you can see the important role that our profession can play in the preservation and expansion of the world's cultural and linguistic diversity.


Tuesday Jul 31, 2007

StarOffice is invisible

I went to Borders the other night to see if there were any books on StarOffice or Not a single one, but dozens on MSFT Office. What's up with that? Are we suffering from "If you build it, they will come" syndrome? Then I went to the web site of Encore Software, the US retail distributor of StarOffice. I didn't see SO listed on their home page among the games they sell, so used their search facility. It came up with nothing. We have an excellent product that sells at a fraction of the price of its only real competitor -- maybe we should tell the world about it.

Friday Feb 23, 2007

Note to Sun: Call Michael Dell

Dell has started a new web site that is pretty cool, definitely Web 2.0: Dell IdeaStorm. Anyone can post a product idea that they would like Dell to implement. Then, users can vote continuously for their favorite ideas, which are displayed in order of popularity. Guess what the most popular idea is? PCs with pre-installed Linux (75,000 votes). And the second most popular? Pre-installed OpenOffice (46,000 votes). 

This is huge. I can't imagine a better way to promote OpenOffice as a corporate standard. It's already hit the news media. I hope Dell listens to their own users, and I hope Sun follows up on this opening. Simon Phipps has already blogged about it, and I hope the idea reaches the right ears.

Sunday Mar 26, 2006

OpenOffice in unexpected places

I noticed something interesting about OpenOffice: it's starting to pop up in unexpected places. You've probably seen those ubiquitous home-shopping channels that are all over cable TV. Here is a fairly pricey laptop from V2 Premier offered on ShopNBC. It costs more than $1700. To make the price a little more palatable, they include Windows XP and MS Works, but not MS Office. Instead, the "productivity DVD" that ships with the machine contains -- you guessed it -- OpenOffice.

A few years ago, theorists like Eric Raymond were proposing that Open Source software would take over when the price of computer hardware fell so low (like $200) that the OS would be the most expensive component, and that low end manufacturers would then start shipping Linux instead of Windows.  In practice, something different has occurred. Manufacturers have succeeded in raising the price of PCs, by offering more bells and whistles that the public wants, like portability --there's been a definite consumer shift to laptops-- and better entertainment options. To keep the price from getting completely ridiculous, it seems they're cutting out MS Office, and beginning to substitute OpenOffice on Windows.




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