Beyond the Code

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-04-19 Print this article Print

In our previous conversation, I had a little trouble understanding what the value to the open-source community would be.
Well, whats the value of RealPlayer to the open-source community? It validates the work from the open-source community. Whats the value of StarOffice to the open-source community? It validates the work of the open-source community.
The Java Desktop System validates Linux as a viable enterprise alternative to the Windows environment. Adding value to the open-source community doesnt always mean adding code—it means adding marketing awards, endorsements, a seal of approval, developers [and] programs. Its a naive analysis of the open-source community that says its all about forking over source code. Its not—its about building community, about making investments in marketing, in developing technologies that run on, with and through the open-source community. We have a very long history of working with the open-source community. Despite some of our peers in the industry who hire people with titles like evangelist, our folks have titles like developer and architect, and they go work with the open-source community to build technologies and solutions that solve customers problems. I would point back to the Java Desktop System as evidence of the work weve done with the GNOME community, the Mozilla community and the Linux community to really bring products to market that dont just add more lumps of source code into the source tree but deliver value to customers so that they want to inject money into an ecosystem and make it self-sustaining and profitable. How would you compare the Java Desktop System to what Novell is putting together, given common elements such as Evolution? Certainly it bears a relation in that were both hoping to go be competitive against Microsoft. The work weve done has been more than simply assembly, though. Were one of the principal contributors to the GNOME project, to Mozilla, obviously to StarOffice—and we believe in not simply assembling technologies but really commercializing them. Novells participation in the market is a good thing, because it validates the market as creating an opportunity for more than simply one company. So, I welcome the competition. To us, its really emblematic of the nature of the relationship we have with Microsoft, which is a deeply held belief that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that interoperability between Sun and Microsoft grows the overall market for both of our products rather than advantages one company versus another. Next page: Choosing sides with DRM?

Steve Gillmor is editor of's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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