LibreOffice and UK Government

One of the things that Collabora does is work with other open source projects to improve things for open source software in general.

I was chatting with Michael Meeks of SUSE fame and we had a chat about my recent decision to buy Microsoft Office 2010 for the city council.

One of the overriding problems with the comparison was the lack of support for macros within OpenOffice and I was glad to hear about improvements being made in that area. However, there was still an issue. Doing improvements like this cost lots of time, and therefore for a commercial open source company, money.

A question arises as to who can pay for this. A district council has limited funds, and can’t devote it to (essentially what equates to) a large search and development software engineering task. Companies themselves won’t want to take the risk that comes with the large development without a buyer, as once the work is done, it is open source so is harder to monetize.

In the mean time, millions of pounds of public money is being siphoned into a private company, and vendor lock in continues. An easy out for a councillor can be to say “Central Government should pay” but given the current state of the economy, I can’t see is happening in the immediate future.

However, there is a consultation on Open Standards that’s currently accepting submission until May, and if that insisted on ensuring that open standards are adopted throughout the UK, it may help unlock this chicken and egg problem.

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10 Responses

  1. jet says:

    If your business relies too much on macros or Office suite to process data – that means your organization doesn’t use IT properly. And no don’t tell me that MS Access is database

    • Neil McGovern says:

      This is also a view I’ve come across when dealing with OpenOffice – documents with macros exist, as they can come from central government.

      To simply say “don’t do that” isn’t realistic.

  2. John Lawton says:

    Hi Neil,

    do we know whether Libra Office is any better in this respect (macros)?

  3. John Lawton says:

    That should read Libre Office of course!

    • Neil McGovern says:

      It’s got a bit better, but there’s still absolutely loads to do. Mandating open standards can only help improve this.

  4. Bob says:

    Did you consider using the money that was going to go to MS for Office licenses to instead pay for Collabora (or whoever) to add macro support to LibreOffice? £290,000 goes a long ways. If that isn’t enough for some company to add sufficient support, then look into forming an alliance with another city or three. For the cost of one upgrade, the lot of you could essentially pay for your last upgrade, ever. Or, with enough other cities (or whoever) chipping in, you could each be paying maybe half your upgrade cost this one last time. Maybe keep the future upgrade budget at a 10% level and the alliance uses it to fund some enhancements they want (something you couldn’t even do with MS).

  5. Kevin says:

    I am wondering whether the work the city if Munich, Germany, has put into their office migration could have been somewhat leveraged.

    One of the hurdles they had to overcome was a total chaos of MS office macros, extensions, etc. so they put a lot of money into an OOo based framework called Wollmux (http://www.muenchen.de/Rathaus/dir/limux/wollmux/p_e.html).

    This allows them not only keep the same level of office automation but also to consolidate it across departments.

  1. May 17, 2012

    […] lock in, and to open up government from the extra expense this occurs is to be applauded. I have previously blogged about my decision to purchase Microsoft Office for Cambridge City Council, and the reasons why […]

  2. May 17, 2012

    […] lock in, and to open up government from the extra expense this occurs is to be applauded. I have previously blogged about my decision to purchase Microsoft Office for Cambridge City Council, and the reasons why […]

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