Watch out Microsoft, Google ‘LibreOffice as a service’ is here

Collabora Productivity has partnered with ownCloud to bring online LibreOffice to users

libreoffice online

CODE running on iPad Pro

Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya

Collabora Productivity, a UK-based consulting company has collaborated with ownCloud Inc. to release a developer edition of online LibreOffice, which they call CODE (Collabora Online Development Edition).

Collabora Productivity said in a press statement that CODE "allows prototype editing of richly formatted documents from a web browser. With good support for key industry file formats, including text documents (docx, doc, odt, pdf…), spreadsheets (xslx, xsl, ods,…) and presentations (pptx, ppt, odp,…).”

The office suite implementation runs on ownCloud server. That’s where all the processing and heavy lifting is done. The rendering happens at the client side. Currently there are three apps: writer (equivalent to MS Word), spreadsheet (Excel) and presentation (PowerPoint). At the moment users can create new documents and edit them. Other functionality, such as collaborative editing, is in the pipeline.

This is interesting because ownCloud already has ‘ownCloud Documents’ that has collaborative features. But there is a big difference between the two products. While ownCloud Documents offers an online collaborative editor that can handle Rich Text Formats, CODE offers a complete productivity suite. CODE is also compatible with Microsoft Office formats so users can easily import/exports documents in MS Office formats.

libreoffice online 2 Swapnil Bhartiya

CODE running on the iPad Pro.

I played with CODE for a while and found it much closer to the LibreOffice and Office 365 experience than Google Docs. I also tested it on my iPad Pro and it worked flawlessly. That’s important because Google offers a very crippled version of Docs on iOS devices.

However, Collabora doesn’t have any plans to directly compete with Google or Microsoft. "We don't have a gigantic advertising business to cross-subsidise that," said Collabora's Michael Meeks. "That's why we encourage developers to download a virtual machine to host it, and hack on it where they want to, and to get involved with the development."

I am assuming there will be two editions of the CODE product: 1) a community based version which anyone can download and install on their own servers; 2) A commercial offering for enterprise customers.

Collabora and ownCloud are working together and will deliver a combined commercial solution in 2016, based on an integration between Collabora CloudSuite and ownCloud Server.

In addition to ownCloud, Collabora is also working with other cloud providers to integrate CODE with their services. There are companies that offer hosted ownCloud servers so it is likely that you will see CODE based LibreOffice as a service by many different hosting companies.

Interested developers can download the software and install on their ownCloud servers. Just keep in mind that this is not the final product. It’s an unsupported R&D edition of the integration based on LibreOffice Online and ownCloud Server.

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