The news from the Gobe Software front seem to be slightly sad, but only at first glance. Sad because, Gobe as we know it is no more, as it sold the gobeProductive source code and rights to FreeRadicalSoftware, Inc. However, FreeRadicalSoftware’s business plan requires them to GPL the popular office suite, allowing everyone to access gobeProductive’s source for Windows, Linux and even BeOS. The official announcement is expected next week. FreeRadicalSoftware was created recently by the ex-boss of Gobe Software, Bruce Hammond, and some other ex-Gobe and non-Gobe people. Read more for our exclusive interview with Bruce regarding the open sourcing of GP3 under the GPL.
Update: And an additional comment from Gobe’s Tom Hoke.
The story so far
Bruce Q. Hammond co-founded Gobe Software in the winter of 1997 in order to realize a dream to make powerful software more usable by everyone. Hammond brings a wealth of experience from Apple and Claris were he spent three years helping make ClarisWorks the most successful Apple product to date (now renamed AppleWorks after they sold it to Apple some years ago). Prior to joining Claris, Hammond developed consumer digital telephony and co-founded HighTide Software in 1991, now owned by Supra which uses the technology in its line of voice modems.
Gobe Productive started its life as the most advanced and full product ever released for the BeOS platform. After the Be and BeOS demiss, Gobe ported (along with a huge C++ chunk of the BeOS API) their powerful office suite on Windows. The Linux version was in the works for quite some time now and there is already an pre-alpha version to download and try out (note: this Linux build is not current, it is still pre-alpha quality-wise). You can download the Windows demo from here (this version is stable). Word has it that sales in the Windows world, a world governed by Ms Office, were not exactly great, leaving no option to Gobe but to sell the product and free it from its current vulture, sorry I meant venture, capitals.
gobeProductive 3 is a modern office suite, with stronger points on its vector engine and its imaging capabilities. You will also find a powerful word processor and spreadsheet both with compatibility to Microsoft’s formats (.doc & .xls), the ability to be render side by side different elements of the suite in a single file format (eg. you can fully use a spreedsheet view on a text document that also has vector and/or bitmap images), exporting to PDF and HTML, among other file formats. Additionally, the suite comes with a basic presentation application, and while it does not have .ppt compatibility, incorporating the suite’s engine strong vector capabilities, makes it a sexy option too. And all that in a less than 12 MB package (compressed), making it an excellent choice for a speedy, powerful and compact office suite.
Interview with Bruce Hammond
Bruce Hammond: FreeRadical has purchased the rights to develop and market products based on the gobeProductive source code. We have also been working with another company – now called Gobe, LLC- that plans to take over the marketing and
sales and support of gobeProductive 3.x. for Windows There is a perfect continutity there for our users. Exprect to see further press information about this in the next few weeks.
2. Tell us more about Free, Radical Software that you recently founded. Where will it be based and how many people are working currently for this new company?
Bruce Hammond: The company is based in Portland, OR., however we hope to be able to be more decentralized than Gobe was. Ther are 3-4 of us currently involved with forming FreeRadical and setting up its contracts, etc. The company has nobody on its payroll at the moment, but we expect to be at 8-10 full time staff by the end of the year.
Bruce Hammond: FreeRadical has purchased the gobeProductive source code and plans to continue to develop the product under a GPL license. Our commercial activities will produce customized products based on the technology for special markets. I can’t tell you more than that right now.
4. So, you will open source gobeProductive 3.x under the GPL. Please tell us more about this decision and why you decided to open the product; maybe you could also give us an ETA of its public release.
Bruce Hammond: Since we are wanting to use the technology to make specialized products with custom features for “niche” market areas, it makes tremendous sense to release the underling technololgy as an OpenSource product. We can get lots of contribution from the community to improve that app, to do localized versions, the help port it to other platforms, etc. We stand to benefit tremendously from the GPL licensing..
I think it will take 90 -120 days before the broad public sees the GPL’d software. Some people will see it before that date as we work to roll it out.
5. Is the current GP 3.0.4 still compatible with BeOS? Last time I checked, Gobe’s Tom Hoke was maintaining a BeOS version of GP3 for his personal use. How easy/difficult it would be to backport the GPLed version of GP3 back to BeOS 5?
Bruce Hammond: I think that there is some work involved to bring GP 3.x to BeOS, but it is not a mind-bending amount of work – it is straight forward stuff for the most part… Now under a GPL license, it can happen, were Gobe never had the time or energy to do it.
6. What is the current status of the Linux version of GP3?
Bruce Hammond: The product has improved in the past two months since the Alpha release. It still needs time and attention to get it to commercial quality release under Linux. Obviously we have had some big distractions in the past two months that have kept us from doing all that we had planned.
7. There are some rumors on the web that Xandros was interesting in using exclusively your office suite in the upcoming Xandros Desktop 1.0. What can you tell us about it?
Do I think they should use GP? Of course! Its great. 🙂
8. Will the open source version of GP3 use the name “Productive” or are you planning on renaming it?
Bruce Hammond: We are planing to rename it somehow. I would love to get feedback from the community as to what the name should be.
9. What made you pick the GPL and not another open source license?
Bruce Hammond: We plan to dual license the software. The GPL has teeth in it that helps to prevent another commercial competitor from forking the code. Also, GPL is well liked and well understood by the hacker community.
And here is yet one more screenshot of a recent GP3 build for Linux, showing the spreadsheet.