Hard-up OpenOffice whips out begging-cap website

Coders seek new sugar daddy

Hamburg-based open-source project OpenOffice will embark upon a major fundraising campaign this week to defend itself against a looming shutdown.

On Wednesday a new website will be launched with many donation options, spokesperson Andreas Jäger told The Register: "The organisation will also look for a major investor, but one that fits the product."

After the split with their main sponsor, Oracle, in June, the brains behind OpenOffice decided they wanted to continue as an association. A sudden death of OpenOffice would be disastrous, the organisation says. Their software is used worldwide, not only by private individuals, but also by many administrations and small and medium-sized businesses; the package is downloaded 1.5 million times a week.

German company StarDivision developed the application set as the proprietary software suite StarOffice back in the '90s. When Sun Microsystems purchased the code in 1999, it pretty much became part of a battle with Microsoft's Office Suite, during which its source code was released.

After Sun was bought by Oracle, the OpenOffice developer community cut ties with the company. Former OpenOffice developers started to work on their own fork of the suite, called LibreOffice. Earlier this year, LibreOffice announced its first stable release. Major commercial contributors to the code include SuSE, Red Hat and Canonical.

In April this year, Oracle said it would move OpenOffice to a purely community-based open-source project and would no longer offer a commercial version of the software. "Given the breadth of interest in free personal productivity applications and the rapid evolution of personal computing technologies, we believe the OpenOffice.org project would be best managed by an organisation focused on serving that broad constituency on a non-commercial basis," said Edward Screven, Oracle's chief corporate architect.

Despite competition from its own ranks, OpenOffice will now continue. "OpenOffice.org, more than any other open-source software, stands for the free internet and open access," supporter Klaus Eck, founder of eck-kommunikation, said in a statement. "Supporting OpenOffice.org doesn't just mean helping any software; it means taking a stand for free internet."

OpenOffice intends to radically change the product. It will no longer be a MS Office rip-off, Martin Hollmichel of Team OpenOffice.org promised: "We have been going after the competitors for too long, instead of really focusing on the needs of the user. Now that we are free we can change that." ®

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