Why Sun's CEO Is Fast Becoming a Leading Spokesperson for the Open-Source Community

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-03-11 Print this article Print

[title=Open source made easy}


"I was visiting with a senior executive from one of the largest financial institutions in Africa recently, and he was telling me that his business was growing like a weed. That wasn't exactly my perception of the African economy, so I asked him how this was happening," Schwartz said.

" 'There are two reasons people don't open bank accounts,' the executive told me. 'No. 1, people didn't have any money to put into a bank. And secondly, because they don't have access to information. So we decided,' the banker said, 'to give all new customers cell phones.'  Okay, I'm listening," Schwartz said. "How does this work?"

The answer was that it works because a customer-usually a farmer-who had a crop he wanted to sell could now use the cell phone to business advantage.

"In the past, the broker would come along and offer him $1 a bushel for the crop, and the farmer would have to take it or leave it, because he didn't know any better," Schwartz said. "The broker would go back to the village and sell it to someone else for $12 a bushel. He was $11 better off, but the farmer wasn't. Until he got a cell phone."

Now, the farmer can simply make a few calls and find out what the going rates are, Schwartz said. "His buddy in the town center can tell the farmer, 'Ask him for 10 bucks.'"

As a result, there's a lot more wealth being redistributed right now in certain parts of Africa, and that's certainly good for the entire economy, Schwartz said.

This is just one story, but it is a microcosm of what open-source software and its worldwide community is all about. Schwartz explained it well-and in terms that other businesspeople could easily understand. 

Schwartz, through his popular blog and personal appearances like this, is a key reason why Sun Microsystems, one of the top 10 largest IT companies in the world-and the one that most relies on open source and the open-source community to help drive its business-is going to find itself well positioned in the not-too-distant future in relation to the inevitable continued growth of free and open-source software.

The company has long known why giving away important intellectual property such as TCP/IP, Java, OpenOffice.org, NetBeans, OpenSolaris and a plethora of other technologies enables them to become key building blocks for the future Web 2.0 economy. It enables Sun to sell hardware and services around them, to be sure.

The fact that those giveaway technologies all interact well with other open-source technologies, such as Linux and Apache-as well as proprietary products like Windows and Unix-is also a key factor.

Schwartz is the point person for much of this communication. And, as such, he's now probably the No. 1 corporate representative of the open-source community, and other powerful business people around the world are listening carefully to what he has to say.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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