OpenOffice 2.0 Faces Opposition over Its Use of Java

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-05-09 Print this article Print

The popular open-source office suite is almost ready for the unveiling of its landmark 2.0 release, but it's creating foes because of its use of Sun's proprietary Java. 2.0 is in late beta and brings improvements in both speed and Microsoft Office compatibility to the popular open-source office suite, but some free software fans are objecting to its use of Suns Java.

OO.o ( 2.0 has been designed, according to its concept document, StarOffice/ "Q" Product Concept, to "lower cost of interoperability with Microsoft Office" and improve "its performance in … areas that are especially important to customers. The two most visible areas of improvement will be decreasing the Startup Time and Document Open/Save Time."

From informal testing by Ziff Davis Internet, the late beta of OO.o has accomplished those goals.

The problem, according to some free software voices, is that OO.o relies too much on Sun Microsystems Inc.s proprietary Java programming language in an open-source project.

While some OO.o supporters claim that the opposition is primarily the result of misinformed free-software zealots, Microsoft, or astroturfing (the use of paid shills to create the impression of a popular movement) by OO.o opponents, there does seem to be some concrete opposition to OO.o by the free software community.

Click here to read about how conflicts have come up before about the use of proprietary software in open-source projects, as even Linus Torvalds has found out. The most visible evidence of that is that the FSF (Free Software Foundation) is "is looking for volunteers to maintain a version of OpenOffice that doesnt require a non-free Java platform." Volunteers to lead this project are requested to contact the FSFs founder, Richard M. Stallman.

In particular, free software advocates are objecting to the use of Sun specific Java code for such OO.o 2.0 features as the new, Microsoft Access-like database management program, Base and Writers (OO.os word processor) document wizards.

While Java was used in earlier versions of OO.o, its use was much smaller and confined to more minor areas such as JDBC (Java Database Connect) driver support for Java-based databases.

The Java code in the newest OO.o, however, does not compile well with open-source Java compilers like the GCJ (GNU Compiler for Java Programming Language). Linux vendors like Red Hat Inc. and community Linux distributors such as Ubuntu use GCJ instead of Suns programs.

Next Page: Reaching a milestone.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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