Cutting corners: The LibreOffice Foundation is offering a paid version of the eponymous productivity suite to Apple users. The money will be used to fund the project's development, or rather to "educate" organizations about the added value of professional services and official distribution channels. Or so they say.
Shortly after the release of LibreOffice 7.4.1 Community Edition, The Document Foundation has started a new paid distribution of the office suite on the Mac App Store. LibreOffice remains free, but Apple users will pay a price to get their software from Apple official channels, while skipping the download of important dependencies which are available in the aforementioned community edition.
The Document Foundation is the non-profit that promotes and manages LibreOffice, the open source productivity suite which started as a fork of OpenOffice. The suite includes a word processor (Writer), a spreadsheet program (Calc), a presentation program (Impress) and other tools designed to be a FOSS alternative to commercial office suites, but first and foremost the ubiquitous Microsoft Office.
In announcing the release of LibreOffice on the Mac App Store, LibreOffice marketing head Italo Vignoli said that TDF wants "to support end users who want to get all of their desktop software from Apple's proprietary sales channel." The previous App Store version of LibreOffice was managed by Collabora, while LibreOffice will now charge a "convenience fee" of €8.99 to directly support development of the project.
Perhaps the missing piece following that reasoning is that Apple offers a free office suite with macOS, the iWork suite is pretty competent for basic productivity and also offers MS Office alternatives called Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.
According to Vignoli, the new paid release is an evolution over the previous situation and it reflects TDF's new marketing strategy: the Foundation is focused on the release of LibreOffice community-developed version as always, while "ecosystem companies are focused on a value-added long-term supported version targeted at enterprises." Organizations must be educated to support the FOSS project by choosing the LibreOffice version optimized for deployments in production while backed by professional services, Vignoli added.
The "positive" effects of this new strategy will not be visible for some time, TDF said, but a paid version of LibreOffice for App Store users is just the beginning of a journey in that direction. Furthermore, the App Store edition of the productivity suite will not include a Java runtime because external dependencies are not allowed by Apple. The paid LibreOffice is based on the same source code of the standard release, which will continue to be available as a Windows, Linux or macOS (Apple Silicon or Intel) package. This is the version all users – even the Mac ones – should probably get.