If you’re anything of an open source (or free and open source) software advocate, chances are you are well familiar with the attempts to produce a productivity suite to rival and replace Microsoft Office. It has been a long and rather uphill journey, though with relative success in some some quarters. But with Microsoft now spreading its wings to other platforms, particularly mobile and the Web, the battleground has also changed drastically. Already four years in the making, an online version of the LibreOffice suite might soon become reality if this new partnership between companies really bear fruit.
Pictured above, the earliest proof of concept of LibreOffice Online way back in 2011.
The two companies joining arms for a common cause are Collabora, whose business partly revolves around the development and deployment of LibreOffice in the enterprice, and IceWarp, who provides messaging solutions such as email and chat to businesses. The two are exactly in the right position, in the enterprise market, to push for the expansion of LibreOffice to the Web and to continue the fight for open source software and open document formats. LibreOffice, and its predecessor OpenOffice, was born out of a need for open alternatives to Microsoft’s ubiquitous suite and file formats. It started at a time when Redmond exercised rather draconic practices when it came to locking out even its own users due to proprietary formats.
The battle for open document formats have largely been won, with software vendors like Google advocating its use. Even Microsoft would later on support ODF to some extent. The cry for an open source office suite, however, has somewhat died down. It started to happen partly when Sun Microsystems, who had OpenOffice under its care, among other things, was purchased by Oracle, notorious for not being friendly to the open source movement. This would give birth to LibreOffice, which has become the new standard bearer of the movement.
Some might argue that the evil Microsoft of old is long gone, but for how long, no one will be able to say. It is precisely because of that uncertainty that free and open source software advocates continue to push for alternatives like LibreOffice, especially for when times that things go terribly wrong.
As for LibreOffice Online itself, the Collabora and IceWarp will work together with LibreOffice developers, particularly in developing the server-side backend that will drive the web app. The client, on the other hand, will be built using HTML5 technologies. As to how long it will take, hopefully before Google, Microsoft, and the tech world move on to the next big thing in platforms where the next Office suite battle will take place.