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Who wants to develop OpenOffice for Tablet?

One of the most common user questions I see on the Facebook and Twitter streams for Apache OpenOffice is “Do you have a iPad version?” or “Do you have a tablet version”?   Although there are companies that offer access to OpenOffice via a virtualized remote session, there is no native tablet version of OpenOffice.

I have received questions, behind the scenes, about the feasibility of starting such an effort at Apache.   Of course, creating a tablet version of OpenOffice, a competitive application with a first-class native touch UI,  with platform integration and optimization, is a  non-trivial effort.    My impression is that there are several companies, small and large, that would find this to be an intriguing possibility.  But the task is too large to do it alone.  But with several companies involved,  as a joint effort, in an open source project, then this becomes possible.

Imagine if we had such an open source tablet version of OpenOffice available today.   It would be an app that everyone would want.  If done right the OpenOffice app would be at the top of the charts just as the desktop OpenOffice is one of the leading open source desktop apps.  The app itself would be free, of course.   But it would be an open platform that we could all build upon.

Possible business models might include:

  • Cloud services related to documents, range from storage to sharing and collaboration
  • Extensions to the app, in-app purchases of additional templates, content, etc.
  • Advertising-supported apps.
  • From service provider perspective, avoidance of licensing fees for competing commercial office software.
  • A “white label” version that can be rebranded per customer

There are good reasons, I think, for doing such work at Apache, including:

  • Existing expertise in the OpenOffice product
  • Proven community development culture based on The Apache Way
  • Permissive, commercially-friendly Apache License, the preferred license for Android userspace
  • Strong brand / name recognition

I’d like to have a discussion with those having a serious interest in making a tablet version of OpenOffice.  By serious, I mean those who might be willing to contribute developers to a larger effort, if such an effort were to materialize.  I’m happy to talk one-on-one.  And if there is sufficient serious interest from multiple parties I can broker a meeting of interested parties to discuss further options.

If any of this sounds interesting and you want to register your interest please send me an email at robert_weir@us.ibm.com.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Stephen Leibowitz 2013/05/29, 11:59 am

    You once said, “When IBM acquired Lotus, I saw SmartSuite disappear, lost to the world. The efforts of 100′s of developers, a decade of work, was locked away in some corporate archive. That’s the way it was done back then.”

    Actually, IBM only recently withdrew SmartSuite, close to twenty years after acquiring Lotus. Your timeline sounds more like that of the Lotus Improv software. Is there any chance that Improv might become an Apache project? I think that with some work it could be integrated with AOO or be a closely related project. Here are a few ideas:

    Improv may have some third-party components that cannot be open-sourced. It was not a trivial task, but Apache showed that it could replace components in OOo that do not meet its licensing requirements.

    If the memory model is 16-bit, it should be changed to 32-bit. The last released version was probably 16-bit, but there may have been additional development, geared toward 32-bit Windows 95, before the plug was pulled on Improv.

    Winelib would be a quick-and-dirty way to port Improv to non-Windows platforms. A web search for indicates that this would work. Hopefully, a cleaner plan would later be carried out.

    Improv does not support ODF. But the AOO community has experience developing filters. An ODF filter could be added to Improv. Also, an IMP filter or an IMX (text file) filter could be added to Calc.

    I have focused here on Improv. But Organizer, Approach, and other Lotus SmartSuite software might also be good candidates to become Apache projects:
    Software withdrawal and discontinuance of support: Lotus SmartSuite , Lotus Organizer and Lotus 123
    IBM United States Withdrawal Announcement 913-091
    May 14, 2013

  • Inge Wallin 2013/05/30, 5:46 am

    With all due respect for AOO, I think that there is a much more viable way to get an ODF-based office suite on mobile devices: To use the Calligra Office Engine[1] and craft a UI on top of that. It’s already been done for several smartphones so the tablets should not be rocket science. The Calligra desktop applications are not as mature as neither Apache OpenOffice or LibreOffice but the underlying engine is very capable and can handle almost everything that the others can. This is because of the old Nokia project of creating ODF viewers out of these applications for their old Meego smartphones. Since then they have been used in many mobile projects including tablets.

    Such a project would involve only creating the UI and do some basic porting work. Most of the porting is already done by the Qt toolkit developers. And we are talking about a codebase of ~1.1 MLoC, of well-structured and -layered code not 7 or 8 MLoC in one big monolith as the OpenOffice derivatives are.

    [1] http://www.calligra.org/

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