The news are out and while they do not concern the LibreOffice project directly (insofar as this does not represent a change within the Document Foundation) I thought I’d be explaining a bit what these news are about and what they mean for the LibreOffice project. First, the announcement, as well as Michael Meeks’ blog post on the subject. (Caveat Emptor: I dont’t work for Suse and this is a personal blog, expressing my views only, although I’ m obviously a member of the Document Foundation’s board of directors which makes me anyway speak from a different point of view from the guy next door) Essentially, the story can be summarized in this sentence: Suse wants to focus on its core business (server and cloud computing) and has decided to spin off part of its LibreOffice development team over to Collabora.
What this means is that the Document Foundation has won a new strategic partner, Collabora, and that it has now a seat at the Advisory Board. What this also means is that Collabora has joined the ecosystem of LibreOffice service providers and that it will de facto stand as one of the very best companies making money on LibreOffice. Of course this does not automatically ensure their business success, this is why we wish them all the best.
Some readers might be surprised by the way I’m describing the announcement. It might be tempting to see these news as the sign of the upcoming demise of the LibreOffice project. This is very far from being the case and there are two good reasons for that.
First, Suse is NOT dumping LibreOffice developers away. The same developers basically went in a new company and there working on LibreOffice development there. In American parlance, this is called a spin-off. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the Document Foundation has precisely been created to prevent not just a take-over from one company of the entire project, but actually to ensure that any company or any developer leaving the LibreOffice project would not jeopardize the project, the community and their independence. Just as an example, today the Document Foundation has its own release engineering team and has its own infrastructure. We do not rely on third party sponsors or on the benevolent will of one company for any of this. This simply means that if the sky falls tomorrow, we will still be up and running no matter what change in affiliations could happen then.
If anything, what has been announced today by Suse and Collabora is the perfect illustration of why the LibreOffice project is needed and why the Document Foundation has been created. I am thus thrilled to welcome Collabora to the Advisory Board and I would like to send my deep and sincere thanks to Suse for their past and continuing support, and last but not least, wish good luck to Michael Meeks and his team for their new roles at Collabora. The journey is going to be exciting.