LibreOffice scores Ubuntu distribution win

The LibreOffice project, which forked the popular OpenOffice.org productivity suite after its contributors became disenchanted with the way corporate overlord Oracle was running things, has scored a big win: it is to ship by default with popular Linux distribution Ubuntu.

Although the rot had started to set in back when OpenOffice.org, a volunteer-driven open-source project, was owned by Sun Microsystems, it wasn't until Sun was purchased by Oracle that many contributors found they had had enough and forked the code, forming a new project free from corporate control: LibreOffice.

Speaking to THINQ at the openSUSE Developer Conference late last year, LibreOffice developer Michael Meeks described Oracle's attitude towards community-driven development as lying at the heart of the problem, stating that the company believed community, "is something that does things for you, it's not something that you're a member of: if it doesn't do what you like then walk all over it and ignore it."

Since then, the LibreOffice project has gained plenty of support from ex-OpenOffice.org developers, recently publishing a release candidate that improves on the original code in many respects - and it looks like OpenOffice.org is going to have a fight on its hands.

While LibreOffice has been available in the alpha releases of the next Ubuntu Linux distribution, Ubuntu 11.04 'Natty Narwhal,' Canonical had yet to make a formal decision on the final release. ZDNet's Steven Vaughan-Nichols, however, has tied the company down - and got confirmation that LibreOffice will be the default productivity suite in the new release, after years of shipping OpenOffice.org.

Ubuntu isn't the first distribution to make the move, but it's one of the biggest: the consumer-oriented desktop version is one of the most popular Linux distributions around, and support from Canonical will be a big boon for the LibreOffice project.

Oracle hasn't shot its bolt yet, however. With Meeks and others describing the foundation of LibreOffice as an 'invitation, not an ultimatum' for Oracle, the company can still get involved - but not, as with OpenOffice.org, as the controlling force behind the project's development.