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IBM is focusing on the Apache OpenOffice project leaving the latest version of its’ Symphony collaboration suite likely to be the last.

This decision by IBM sees them lining up against Google, Ububtu-shop Canonical Red Hat, Novell and others who’ve thrown their hats in with The Document Foundation.

The Foundation is home to LibreOffice, another OpenOffice fork. Both the fork and foundation were created by Google et al in 2010 after a disagreement with OpenOffice owner Oracle over the project’s future and independence.  During Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystem it inherited OpenOffice. Previously Sun had been the project’s largest single contributor and member, a position now taken on by Oracle. OpenOfficers wanted to use this as an opportunity to re-invent OpenOffice as a vendor-independent and neutral effort. Oracle, however, refused to let go causing the members to split. Oracle only finally let go in June 2011 when agreeing to contribute OpenOffice to ASF. Oracle continues to own the OpenOffice trademark, and say who’s allowed to use it.

Placing OpenOffice with Apache potentially ensured the project’s support; now with IBM stepping in, OpenOffice can also draw on IBM’s manpower. A new version of OpenOffice, 3.4, is planned for 2012 while code considered incompatible with the Apache license is being removed.

Many user and Linus distributors have replaced OpenOffice with LibreOffice.

Where does this leave the users?  Basically if you are a Symphony user there is no reason to worry, whether you name it Symphony or Apache OpenOffice the IBM edition you will still have IBM office suite support.  As for users of other suites perhaps this is just further evidence that LibreOffice, not OpenOffice is the future of open-source office suites.

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