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The Future of How Not to Write a Press Release

The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - Since 2005, I see that I have written over 227 blog entries about ODF (I say more than, because the very earliest got lost in an earlier platform migration).  Throughout the greatest part of this six year period, OpenOffice was the poster child ODF implementation - the one with the most users, the most press attention, the most corporate support - tens of millions of dollars of it, from Sun Microsystems.  Of course, there were other impressive implementations, both open source and proprietary alike.  OpenOffice, though, was always the default ODF implementation referenced by the press.

But the long-stalled acquisition of Sun by Oracle brought uncertainty, and ultimately abandonment.  Along the way, the much neglected community of OpenOffice contributors felt the strain, finally forking as a result.  This gave the new project - LibreOffice, hosted by The Document Foundation, a new non-profit created for that purpose - an early head start in regaining lost ground.  The Document Foundation and LibreOffice today enjoy the enthusiastic support of a growing community that has already released it's own updated version of the original OpenOffice code.  And then, at long last, the legacy code base, too, gained a new lease on life, when last June Oracle offered, and the Apache Foundation accepted, ownership of the code and the OpenOffice trademark, into the Apache Incubator.

With the Apache Foundation providing a new home, the question in many peoples' minds was whether the bruised and abused remnant of the OpenOffice project would be able to get back on its feet, dust itself off, and regain its prior importance in the marketplace.  And also, what would this mean for LibreOffice?

Last week, the Apache Foundation issued a press release meant to address these questions.  How successful was it?  Well, let's just say that when it comes to public relations, the Apache Foundation is a very good open source developer.  A fair summary of the press release is that it's a hodge podge of statements, some opaque, others unnecessary, and some hopelessly confused.  In other words, just when OpenOffice could use a clear, concise statement of what has been accomplished since June and what the project hopes to accomplish next, we get something with little information, much confusion, and no indication of what to expect when.

For those that wish to form their own conclusions, the press release is reproduced in full at the end of this blog entry.  For those that don't, here's my summary of what the Apache Foundation has to say about the state and future of OpenOffice: