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Open Source luminaries claim software is like art, literature

Etre 2005 Aix and Paynes
Tue Oct 18 2005, 14:34
FOUR LINUX LUMINARIES came together at a roundtable here to discuss where Open Source was. And where it was going.

The panel consisted of Marten Mickos from MySQL, Marc Fleury of Jboss, Juergen Beck from SuSE Novell, and Eero Teerokopi.

The panel was asked to rebut a statement by Microsoft that Linux was harder to support. Juergen Beck, chief technology officer at SuSE Novell, said that these Microsoft allegations could all be rebutted, and it was just getting the word out.

Marc Fleury from Jboss said that there had been an explosion of open source investments from venture capitalists. And that, he said, was good. The profitable part is support and maintenance and there's no profit in the licence. If you have a distribution mechanism that allows you to do your sales and marketing at a very low cost you can do away with models that require a licence.

Left to right: Siege Perilous, Mickos, Fleury, Beck, Teerikorpi

Fleury said Open Source firms can sustain profit and loss without the high costs of sales and marketing.

Marten Mickos from MySQL said that it's too early to draw far reaching conclusions about the business model. Open Source is a production model.

Juergen Beck from SuSE said that many of the Open Source programmers are hired by other companies like Symantec, Intel and others, so Open Source firms like his don't necessarily have to put too much energy into developing code up front.

Marten Micjos from MySQL said the new GPL will take better care of patent matters, which is complicated. GPL3 may say that if you only distribute the compiled code, you may have to acknowledge the GPL.

He said he wouldn't count on GPL3 happening in 2006.

Fleury said Jboss is using the lesser GPL, the library version. Jboss doesn't montetise the licence but sells a subscription. Jboss is lobbying the FSF, although he said you can't lobby the FSF really. Notwithstanding Stallman's political convictions, the spirit is clear, said Fleury. Jboss wants the FSF to clarify the language which may frighten large corporations.

Juergen Beck, on this subject, said that licensing is a means to an end. If you want to build a business and protect your IP you might have different objectives. GPL has an infectious nature he said, but the advantage is that it makes very competitive firms cooperate with each other.

Marten Mickos from MySQL said that software patents cause havoc and that it's not like mechanics. He said that software development should be viewed like literature and art. MySQL has nine patents in its pocket but he said his firm keeps those just like a smoker keeps a lighter in his pocket to be sociable with others.

Marc Fleury from Jboss said he was kind of pro-patents, even though his firm is amember of the nosoftware movement. But he said patents aren't used to protect your business but in an aggressive, litigious way. He said Jboss is very happy with what Florian Mueller did, but there's still some way to go. Some people are calling for a reform of the patent system and a fast way to challenge a patent that's been filed.

Beck said that people who just own patents without products can cause legal cases which can destroy companies. He agreed that patents should be applied to widgets and not to things like human genomes. Billions of years of evolution shouldn't be owned by some lawyers. Patent law should be put into context. This was a matter that governments should legislate on, because the bad use of patents could bring down large elements of the IT industry.

Fleury said that patents in themselves are not evil, and it's not about morals.


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