With Canadian Thanksgiving falling yesterday (Monday) and huge head cold hitting me today, I didn’t notice that OpenOffice 3.0 had finally landed. Not only does it have better support for VBA macros, but it supports Microsoft’s OOXML file format (.docx, etc). Microsoft, in turn, will be providing support for the OpenDocument Format (ODF) by February 2009, so MS Office users will be able to open and export ODF files created by OpenOffice.
There is some disturbing news about this, though. Groklaw recently ran a story about MS stacking the ODF standards committee in an effort to change the OpenDocument Format to its own specifications and, presumably, to its own advantage. Will this window of interoperability soon be closed?
In addition to the external pressure exerted by Microsoft on the standards front, Michael Meeks, OpenOffice developer, recently posted some disturbing stats about the rate of participation in OpenOffice’s development. According to his (admittedly) crude numbers, there is less developer interest in the project, both by Sun and by external participants. The number of “active” developers has hit an all-time low of 24, which seems embarrassingly low for such a large and prominent open source project.
It will be interesting to see what comes of this. It should be remembered that Mozilla struggled to gain widespread acceptance until an offshoot, Phoenix (later renamed Firefox), struck out in a different development direction and supplanted the Mother Project. Something similar could happen with OpenOffice, somewhere away from Sun’s oversight (has there been an open source project of theirs that wasn’t bungled in some way?).