IBM is looking to accelerate the development of open source software by donating the IBM Lotus Symphony source code to the Apache OpenOffice project.
According to the IBM announcement, this is intended to provide this open source community with new capabilities, “further accelerating the development of the OpenOffice platform. ”
The Lotus Symphony source code apparently includes enhancements in usability, performance and accessibility, ensuring data is easier to view, read and manipulate from any type of editing tool, and for people with vision impairments.
OpenOffice.org is the office software project, which has existed as an open source competitor to Microsoft Office for some time, and resided at Sun Microsystems till Sun was bought by Oracle in 2009.Oracle subsequently passed OpenOffice to the Apache Software foundation.
Meanwhile, Lotus Symphony is IBM’s suite of Office-like applications which is currently distributed as freeware – effectively providing another free office suite . In essence it includes a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation program.
IBM says that Lotus Symphony will be “enhanced by the collaborative innovation of the open community and we are expanding our efforts in Lotus Symphony.”
IBM also sought to reassure Lotus Symphony users that the Office suit remains an important product to IBM, that it will continue to work on Lotus Symphony, by “pushing the evolution of document technologies both internally and in collaboration with the Apache OpenOffice community.” IBM also said that it is in the process of expanding the Lotus Symphony team working on development of open document technologies.
Meanwhile IBM’s ODF Architect Rob Weir expanded further in an email about IBM’s reasoning behind the move.
“We at IBM have not been exemplary community members when it came to OpenOffice.org. This wasn’t necessarily by design, but for various reasons, that was the effect,” wrote Weir. “Yes, we participated in various community councils, and sponsored conferences and worked together on standards. But when it came down to the code, we maintained Symphony essentially as a fork, and although we occasionally contributed code back, we did not do this well, or often.”
He said that that consequently IBM is contributing the standalone version of Lotus Symphony to the Apache OpenOffice.org project, under the Apache 2.0 licence.
“We’ll also work with project members to prioritise which pieces make sense to integrate into OpenOffice,” he said. “For example, we’ve already done a lot of work with replacing GPL/LPGL dependencies.”
Weir said that he hopes this could accelerate the development of Apache OpenOffice.org.
He also highlighted the accessibility work done in Symphony which makes it work better with assistive technologies, and to IBM’s implementation of VBA macro support, as suitable candidates for merging.
Another possible option for integration is the Symphony user interface.
Last month Oracle donated OpenOffice to Apache, following intense speculation that it might donate the project to the The Document Foundation, the group of developers that left OpenOffice to launch LibreOffice last autumn.
Oracle had promised that it will fully relinquish control and donate it to the community on 15 April, in a move to silence its critics who claimed the database giant was anti-open source. Indeed, Oracle claimed that donating the code to venerable Apache, home of the popular Apache Web Server, proved that Oracle is committed to the developer and open source communities.
Last month a poll of eWEEK Europe UK readers found that most still favour Microsoft Office, though open source office suites made a atrong showing – as did the cloud-based Google Docs.