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OpenOffice Taps Business Smarts

The open source OpenOffice.org (OOo) office suite is about to get an injection of business intelligence thanks to a cooperative effort between Sun Microsystems and open source BI vendor Pentaho.

The Pentaho reporting engine is set to be included with the upcoming OOo 2.3 release and will provide users with easy access to advanced business-intelligence reporting capabilities. With the BI integration, OOo -- and Sun's StarOffice on which OOo is based -- may well become an even more attractive option to business users, as it ratchets up the competition against Microsoft Office.

"The new reporting solution will make OpenOffice.org and StarOffice, Sun's professional distribution of OpenOffice.org, even more attractive to professional users and thus help to grow the market share for both products," Erwin Tenhumberg, community development and marketing manager of the open source group at Sun Microsystems, told internetnews.com.

"This will increase the demand for Sun's OpenOffice.org and StarOffice support and services offerings, as well as for related technologies like thin-client technologies (Sun Ray) and alternatives to Microsoft Exchange (i.e. the Sun Java System Communication Suite)."

What the new integration will do is allow a business user to basically create an OpenOffice Writer (word processing) document that embeds reporting/database content into a document.

Pentaho spokesperson Lance Walter explained that if, for example, someone wanted to create customer invoices that pulled data out of a database, they would use the reporting capabilities and would ultimately end up with customer invoices produced as OpenOffice Writer documents.

For Pentaho, the integration with OOo also represents an opportunity to help grow their business, too.

"It's really a seeding opportunity, similar to how Crystal Reports was always bundled with Visual Basic/Visual Studio," Walter said. "If people want to take what they're doing in OpenOffice with desktop reporting, and move up to server-based reporting, or add analysis, ETL, dashboards, or other capabilities, they can take advantage of the whole Pentaho suite, for which we offer professional support via a subscription."

Pentaho competes in the open source BI space with JasperSoft, among others. A JasperSoft spokesperson told internetnews.com that the company has no official comment at this time about the Pentaho/OOo deal.

According to Sun's Tenhumberg, the deal with Pentaho came about because OpenOffice.org and StarOffice users asked for better reporting capabilities for the database component. Tenhumberg noted that Pentaho offered the right feature set, open source background, commitment and people to work with.

There may be future collaboration between Sun and Pentaho for OOo in the future, though no one is promising anything yet.

"Currently we're focusing on the reporting solution," Tenhumberg said. "We will think about other opportunities once the work on the reporting solution has been completed."