Oracle puts OpenOffice in the cloud, but not for nothing

Cloud edition appears to have no free component

It may not calm the waters Oracle's been roiling between it and the open-source community by strongarming the Java development process, but it has to get a little credit for announcing today that it is making the main open-source alternative to Microsoft Office available through the cloud.

Oracle OpenOffice is a Web-based version of the open-source productivity suite Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems earlier this year.

CloudOffice is based on the Open Document Format (ODF), as is OpenOffice, and is integrated with the desktop version to let users share documents and spreadsheets through the Web service while also keeping copies on their own hard drives.

OpenOffice, which Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2009, is about the only competitor still standing against Microsoft Office on the desktop.

The competition has shifted to the cloud, however, where hordes of suites including GoogleDocs, Zoho, ThinkFree are trying to crowd out Office 365, Microsoft's own online suite.

Like GoogleApps, Cloud Office is designed to scale to support hundreds or thousands of users. It's also built with connectors to Oracle's business intelligence, database, identity management and other applications as well.

It wouldn't be Oracle if there weren't a pin in that blanket. Oracle Cloud Office doesn't appear to be the free version of OpenOffice, or even to have a free component, though the company didn't announce any prices, either in the press release or in the presentation (PDF) with more details.

Oracle Open Office, the version of OpenOffice with Oracle plugins built in, costs $49.95, $90 per user for the Premium Edition, and Oracle Cloud Office is likely to cost similarly, plus extra charges for storage and I/O.

Oracle did announce the business version would be labeled Cloud Office Professional Edition, but didn't say how it would compare in cost to GoogleApps, which costs $50 per user per year.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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