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What we know about Oracle Cloud Office,

By Eric Lai, Computerworld
February 04, 2010 01:16 PM ET

Computerworld - Oracle Corp. calmed the fears of tens of millions of users when it declared it would keep supporting the free open-source productivity suite following its merger with Sun Microsystems Inc.

It also cheered anti-Microsoft Office factions when it said it would deliver a Web version called Oracle Cloud Office. However, Oracle's brief announcements also raised a number of questions that neither the company nor wanted to answer. Here's what we know:

1. What will Oracle Cloud Office look like?

There are many routes Oracle can take with Cloud Office. Will it be a lightweight app that emphasizes Web-based collaboration, a la Google Docs? One that relies on compatibility with its better-known sibling (Microsoft Office) as its chief selling point, such as the upcoming Office Web? Or one that tries to replicate the breadth of's features and go head-to-head against the similarly-broad Zoho?

Oracle chief corporate architect Ed Screven didn't say during his talk last week. But Raju Vegesna, chief evangelist at Zoho, argues that necessity will guide Oracle's strategy. "To bring that entire feature set online would take significant effort," he said. Zoho spent five years rewriting its Zoho Mail client into a Web app, despite its 350-strong corps of developers. "People underestimate the effort involved."

By comparison, Sun reportedly only employed 50 developers for And is notorious for its large, tricky codebase, written primarily in C++ and Java. The codebase is so sprawling that one web site, the SourceForge-owned Ohloh, estimates that it would take $411 million dollars and 7,473 programmer man-years to rewrite it from scratch.

The trouble with a lightweight offering, says Guy Creese, an analyst with the Burton Group, is that it will limit its attractiveness to corporate customers — the ones Screven said Oracle wants to win.

2. Will Web-enabling be difficult, then?

Not necessarily, judging by the trio of companies outside of Sun that have done it.

One Nevada start-up called ZoooS LLC showed off a preview for a Web-hosted version of a year-and-a-half ago. A partially functional version was apparently abandoned by its creators a year ago. The Firefox add-on, compatible only with version 2.x, is still available for download.

A little-known group called Anywhere recently put up browser-based version of, for which it charges 65 cents an hour.

Most successfully, French open-source start-up Ulteo used its application streaming technology to host on the Web. That attracted 95,000 users, who enjoyed better over-the-wire performance than from the desktop version of, said CEO Thierry Koehrlen. Ulteo was never approached by Sun to help develop a Web version, he said.

3. How might Oracle deliver it?

Even before the acquisition closed, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is said to have "encouraged" developers to start rewriting the app using Sun's Rich Internet Application (RIA) platform, JavaFX.

Originally published on Click here to read the original story.

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