Whilst he accepts there are plenty of flaws in his analysis, the broad picture is pretty discouraging.
He reckons OO has about 24 active (code) contributors. MS Office 2007 had 700 staff! Although I’m not sure how many of them were coders, or how many were actually sabotaging the interface instead of enhancing the product. I’d guess 100 coders? (I can’t remember where I read that 700 staff number, anyone got a link?)
Michael points to some grim procedures as part of the cause, and I’m sure that is the case. My personal opinion though is that there are very few C/C++ coders who are that interested in office suites.
Its the same story in the MS world – Vista has had all the headlines, very few bothered to delve into the actual apps that ‘users’ use.
I looked at contributing to OOo, and its still on the list of ‘one day’s, but I want to start off with Gnumeric as that codebase seems easier to follow. A couple of things put me off contributing code though
- The need to sign over some part of the copyright to Sun – that doesn’t seem very ‘open source’ (thats OOo not Gnumeric)
- Getting into coding in Linux
- The need to earn a living
I hope to get there one day, but for now it seems that those with the technical skills don’t have the interest in the applications, and those with the interest in the applications do not have the requisite technical skills.
This conundrum is something Microsoft have come very close to solving with Office VBA. And something it now looks like they have thrown away with the spurning of VBA in favour of .net developer technology.
There are a few .net/Office devs around, and some great resources, but not many compared to the huge body of VBA resources available. Even though VBA has been unloved (in MS) since the 90’s.
If OOo made it possible for ordinary users to write add-ins and extensions, with no more difficulty than VBA do you think that would boost the community contributions?
(Michael is one of the folks working on getting VBA into OOo)
I don’t know if it would show up on his stats but I do think it would boost the OpenOffice ecosystem. Frankly you would have to be pretty dedicated to port a VBA app to StarBasic.
I think End User customisation and development facilities are essential in this end user productivity space, OOo seem to know that, MS used to know it but seem to have forgotten. And I do mean END USER, ‘professional’ dev tools are handy enough, but its the application users who need the power more than the IT team.
I want OpenOffice to do well, if it does it could easily replace MS Office as my target environment. Even if it doesn’t reach those heady heights, if it just gives MS the kick up the arse they need to listen to their actual customers instead of corporate IT middlemen, it will have succeeded for a lot of knowledge workers.
Maybe I need to re-prioritise OOo a little higher.