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Oracle preps Google and Microsoft Office challenger

Cloud Office floats Java against AJAX

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OpenWorld The Google and Microsoft Office two-way online productivity tussle is about to turn into a three way, with Oracle pitching a pro-Java, anti AJAX-option.

Oracle is "right on the edge" of delivering a preview edition of its Cloud Office suite, unveiled in January, says the database giant's chief software architect, Edward Screven.

Screven did not give a date for the preview of the suite that will offer the ability to create and edit word documents and spreadsheets and to deliver presentations.

The Reg understands Cloud Office is a closed-source product developed by Oracle, rather than a part of the OpenOffice Project.

Oracle has promised that Cloud Office uses web standards, but it will also use JavaFX - the currently closed Java scripting language for rich-internet applications and UIs Oracle inherited from Sun Microsystems.

Oracle does plan to open source JavaFX, but at the moment, it is largely of interest only to Oracle and a small number of the ex-Sun's partners.

For Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison, JavaFX is the promised answer to AJAX. Never mind that AJAX is both popular and pervasive on the web. At the final Sun-owned JavaOne in 2009, Ellison enthused:

We'd like to see accelerated development based on this exciting new platform Java with FX, which allows us - thank-you very much James [Gosling], no more AJAX tools, which a lot of suffering programmers will pray for you for the rest of their lives because they don't have to program in AJAX any more.

So enthusiastic was Ellison, he encouraged the OpenOffice team "to quickly build their version of a spread sheet or a word app using JavaFX".

A year later, Screven claimed that Ellison was talking about using JavaFX in conjunction with Cloud Office.

Oracle's JavaFX play pits Cloud Office against Google Docs from a programming perspective, given Google Docs uses AJAX. Also using AJAX is Google's new, eye- and sanity-scrambling Instant search service. Cloud Office is also going up against Microsoft's Office Web apps - the browser-based version of Microsoft's Office suite. Office Web Apps uses AJAX too, with HTML and Microsoft's closed Silverlight browser-based media player.

Cloud Office will run in a browser and provide editing of word and spreadsheet docs, group collaboration and meetings, integration with the OpenOffice suite on the desktop. It will be made available as something users can deploy behind their firewall.

This is similar to the Office Web Apps that integrate with Office 2010 to edit docs off line. Cloud Office is also compatible with Office and the PDF document formats.

Unlike Microsoft's Office Web Apps, though, Cloud Office documents use Open Document Format (ODF) - not Microsoft's interpretation of what an XML document format should be.

Based on Oracle's promotional video, here, the company is pushing Cloud Office as something for use on netbooks and also tablets. Given Cloud Office will run in the browser, you should be able to avoid installing a big, fat copy of Office on your slim machine.

It's unclear whether JavaFX will be allowed on the one tablet everybody cares about - the iPad - given Apple's chief executive does not allow interpreted code on his machine. Sun was burned two years ago when it excitedly committed to puting Java on the iPad's predecessor, the iPhone, only to find out Steve Jobs' license meant Java wasn't getting invited to the pad party. ®

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