What we know about Oracle Cloud Office, OpenOffice.org

Product announcements have raised questions Oracle and OpenOffice.org don't want to answer. Here's what we know.

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3. How might Oracle deliver it?

Even before the acquisition closed, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is said to have "encouraged" OpenOffice.org developers to start rewriting the app using Sun's Rich Internet Application (RIA) platform, JavaFX.

Michael Meeks, the Novell Inc. developer who launched the Go-OO branch of OpenOffice.org, is pessimistic about JavaFX, saying its semi-proprietary licensing is an obstacle for the open-source app, and it poses other technical problems.

He is also not in favor of using standards-based Web technology. "If this is some CSS + JavaScript monster a WYSWYG editor is near impossible," he blogged last week. "I'm not convinced that HTML5 provides enough to do this adequately either."

Meeks calls Oracle Cloud Office a "pipe dream" loaded with "insurmountable technical challenges."

Burton Group's Creese is not as pessimistic, but he said he agrees that AJAX-type technologies won't suffice for enterprise-class features. He favors a rich Internet application such as Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight.

4. When might Oracle Cloud Office arrive?

Apparently confirming last year's report, Screven said that Sun had been working on Oracle Cloud Office "for some time."

Even with that, Tobias Kuipers, CTO of the Software Improvement Group, thinks it will take a while. "In order for it to run on the cloud a large part of the system needs to be adapted," he wrote. "If we assume that this part is 25%, which is a low assumption, then a rewrite effort is going to take 100 man-years."

Vegesna is more specific. "I'm thinking 4-5 years out," he said. "Microsoft took some time [with Office Web], I think it will also be the same with Oracle."

5. What happens to OpenOffice.org?

In the short term, nothing changes. OpenOffice.org 3.0 was released 15 months ago. Downloads from the OpenOffice.org Web site have numbered 123 million copies, with tens of millions more downloaded through mirror and partner sites.

OpenOffice.org 3.2 is due for final release this month. The release schedule, which stretches out to version 3.4.1 due in March 2011, does not mention any cloud versions of OpenOffice.org.

In the long term, Oracle looks like it will maintain the tight grip on OpenOffice.org's development that Sun was heavily criticized for. That includes not spinning off OpenOffice.org into an independent foundation, as some community members called for last year.

Keeping other interested parties — both IBM and Novell have developed their own versions of OpenOffice.org — at arm's length may be a mistake, says Creese. "It would make OpenOffice.org stronger in the long run if others had more of a say in the product's direction."

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