Hi Michael, all, to explicitly mention it: While insights I got by working for the City of Munich certainly played a role in shaping that opinion, whatever I am writing (and have written) on this topic is "with my volunteer hat on", i.e. my personal opinion, not necessarily my employer's. On 07/07/2020 22.13, Michael Meeks wrote:
This is a short summary of some of the problems that I see with LibreOffice, and this is written with my personal / Collabora hat on. People are welcome to question my motivations - but my mission is to try to nurture a successful FLOSS project that creates excellent FLOSS Office Productivity software and makes it freely available to all. Many here will share that goal I hope.
Your (and Collabora's) work for LibreOffice is really much appreciated and I fully share that goal, but have concerns regarding what I'll call the "Personal Edition approach".
Nevertheless there are some big problems currently. Perhaps you think you have a neat solution to one of them. I'd love to hear about it - but solving or obsessing about just one is unlikely to do the job:
I admit I don't have a solution to all problems and certainly not the experience and insight that others like you have there, in particular regarding the ecosystem company side. However, some personal comments/thoughts on some aspects below. Simplifying and exaggerating a bit, I'd try to sum up the described problem as "There's not enough revenue for ecosystem companies, but those are essential for LibreOffice." and the described solution as "Let's discourage enterprises/organizations from using LibreOffice from TDF, and hope they'll use paid versions from ecosystem companies instead." To sum it up, one of my main concerns is that organizations not using "LibreOffice Personal" doesn't necessarily mean they'll use "LibreOffice Enterprise". I see a rather high risk in the "LibreOffice Personal approach" decreasing the overall LibreOffice use/market share, rather causing organizations to switch to other office suites (or choose them from the beginning), not just short-term. This probably wouldn't help to reach the desired goal in the end, but rather have a negative effect on both, TDF-provided LibreOffice as well as "LibreOffice Enterprise" and the ecosystem that provides it.
* LibreOffice is at serious risk Frustration with how TDF markets and positions its 'product' (LibreOffice) against the ecosystem that contributes the majority of the coding work is at an all-time high. That ecosystem itself is under long term stress. Despite years of patient work, writing up the problems here, talks at conferences, personal pleas for change and improvement, and a number of tweaks, nothing -effective- has happened. You can read about the situation here: https://people.gnome.org/~michael/data/vendor-neutral-marketing.html
Thanks for all the information, that's really informative and helps to better understand the motivation/background.
* Surely companies have to buy support & security updates ? They always complain to me about the lack of support wrt. avoiding using FLOSS ! Sadly no. Microsoft gives poor to non-existent support to the majority of users so ~no-one expects to buy it, they expect to buy a product. Enterprises tend to test a version & deploy it to their desktops and leave it there - they can do that with LibreOffice from TDF.
From what I have heard, there's also a tendency in (particularly in large) organizations to only use products backed by some kind of SLA, so there is some contractor to contact (or blame) in case of problems. (Whether that helps in practice is another question, but from a management perspective it seems to be a prerequisite in various settings.)
So - lets turn this around - can anyone thing of more than five enterprises that paid for support or instead (just as good) contributed meaningfully to LibreOffice instead ? Munich, and ...
At least those 3 quickly came to my mind that IMHO qualify regarding code contributions (which apparently depends on how you'd define "meaningfully", though...): * NISZ * SIL * TU Dresden  Regarding paid support, I've at least heard from two or three organizations, but don't know what amounts of money were/are involved there; that's certainly something the involved ecosystem companies (so basically you and Thorsten) know better...
Of course we maintain and promote lists of enterprises that deployed for free with no support ? => It is the norm to deploy LibreOffice from TDF in enterprises, and pay nothing for support & maintenance that can go into development. + its that good.
Might one (main) problem be that LibreOffice (from TDF as well as its enterprise derivatives) just is not widely used by companies whose IT strategy involves paying for their office suites (yet)? IMHO, it'd be ideal to try to get more organizations switch to LibreOffice editions from whatever they're using now which I'd expect to increase demand for professional support as well. At least there seems to be a trend towards FLOSS in general, which might help here. As mentioned above, I'm wondering whether "discouraging" the use of some "LibreOffice Personal" would actually encourage most of the current users to use some "LibreOffice Enterprise" edition instead or rather make them switch to alternatives, like e.g. OpenOffice.org, or proprietary alternatives. As written in my previous email , I agree that many larger deployments involving "professional use" will probably want to use an edition with some kind of professional support (e.g. due to Service Level Agreements, long-term support, more stability, new features) and the TDF-provided version won't fit their needs, regardless of whether it has a "Personal" tag attached or not. Therefore, also from the experiences that the City of Munich made, I tend to expect that affected organizations will find this out (the sooner the more they test before actual deployment...). I wouldn't say (and don't understand what you write as if you would) that the main problem is that LibreOffice from TDF "just is too good" already by itself to make professional support unnecessary after all. (For some organizations, that may be the case, but I'd say this is OK then.) And for rather ill-managed deployments/organizations, as described e.g. in the "Marketing – Product expectations" section in your paper, I'm not so sure whether that's an issue that can actually be solved on LibreOffice side, but tend to think that those organizations would rather just continue using "unfit" and outdated versions of LibreOffice or some alternative instead of switching to "LibreOffice Enterprise".
* You're too expensive: I can get cheaper support from LXYZ instead ? Another pathology is that there are companies who ship LibreOffice, often claiming support, but then file all their tickets up-stream and hope they are fixed for free. Naturally they are cheaper in government tenders, they use our brand, they leave the customer with hundreds of un-fixed bugs, and all of the users with a terrible experience. These companies also seem more 'genuine' since they call their product 'LibreOffice', as compared to those who actually contribute who try to build their own brands. This is not a small problem; there are many millions of users in this situation, there are multiple companies I know of with scale of $10bns in annual revenue, to Linux distros, to local service companies who do this. => The LibreOffice brand is devalued and we have no way of telling people that the product they deployed was not suitable for deployment in an enterprise and has no effective support.
While those companies may not contribute meaningfully to LibreOffice upstream, I tend to think that they will probably manage to do their own branded build of LibreOffice ("MyOffice" or whatever, without a "Personal" tag attached), and then offer that with the same (nonexisting) support for basically the same price.
* But surely if everyone donates to TDF and all is well ? we just need to ask for more donations ! Currently TDF sits on a ~Eur 1.5 million cash pile yielding a zero to negative interest rate. For various complex, structural, organizational, legal etc. reasons TDF has managed to effectively tender only one smaller partial feature (related to ODF 1.3) since the ESC and Board voted for community submitted items from 2018. However - even if TDF spent its existing budget on feature development it would contribute around 10% of what the ecosystem currently puts in. Possibly if we give TDF 10x more more money - it will become a more dynamic organization (though still run by a committee of ten); perhaps that is possible.
That sounds sad and like it would be great to have that improved, even if it's only a partial solution.
* These naming changes seem to suggest some people need to pay ? I won't be able to install it in XYZ enterprise if called Personal This is in large part a feature. Clearly people can use it for free, just as before - but they would occasionally see the splash and thing: "I wonder why it says Personal" (or another tag) there. Probably this nudge alone is enough to try to encourage real contribution to LibreOffice, and get the numbers of users buying support and thus contributing, or else contribuing themselves up from ~zero.
This might work, but as mentioned earlier, I see quite high risks it might in the end make things even worse (and it's hard to guess, which is true...). In any case, as others have already said, I personally don't like the idea of "actively discouraging" the use of TDF's LibreOffice, but it'd be great to have an approach to more positively encourage the use of enterprise editions. Ultimately, the goal should be to somehow convince organizations currently using other office suites to migrate to LibreOffice (Enterprise), and I think that the popularity of TDF's LibreOffice plays a vital role there as well. Best regards, Michael  https://gerrit.libreoffice.org/q/author:tu-dresden.de+status:merged+branch:master  https://listarchives.documentfoundation.org/www/board-discuss/msg04586.html
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