No Linux Kernel Rewrite on the Cards

A news conference invite has sparked rumors about rewriting the Linux kernel, but sources say the announcement is nothing more than a modest job-development initiative.

Speculation over the past weekend that IBM and Open Source Development Labs are preparing to rewrite the Linux kernel to counter intellectual property and patent threats from Microsoft are way overblown, sources tell eWEEK.

Late last week, reporters were sent an invitation to a news conference Jan. 25 regarding "something weve code-worded Operation Open Gates."

"This Jan. 25, IBM, OSDL and some other industry giants will be holding a joint press conference for a significant announcement regarding open technology," the invite from a Portland, Ore.-based public relations firm said.

"A few years ago, IBM, Intel and OSDL made an earlier joint announcement on this topic and, as you know, it signaled a catalyst that changed everything—in the last few years, open technology has gone from concept to a mainstream movement," the invite said.

"The announcement on the 25th unveils an unprecedented plan to facilitate the next major step. The implications are dramatic and global."

The marketing and PR hype in the invite led to reports that the rewriting of the Linux kernel would be announced at the event. But a source with knowledge of next weeks announcement told eWEEK on Tuesday that, unfortunately, it was nothing near as exciting as that.

"There is no Project Open Gates. We would have called this type of project an incubator in the 1990s. The announcement is a job development initiative by the city of Beaverton, with some state involvement, that will focus on open source and how to foster developing businesses around open source. Thats why Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski is slated to attend. But thats pretty much it," the source said.

The city of Beaverton, Ore., along with OSDL and others, is putting more than $1 million into economic development around open-source software, the source said, while an open-source software center designed to attract and retain students from the University of Oregon and Oregon State is also on the cards.

An IBM spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.

Stuart Cohen, the CEO of OSDL in Beaverton, was one of several speakers invited to the event, the source said. This led to incorrect speculation that since Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds and his right-hand man Andrew Morton were both employed by the labs, the announcement would involve IP, patents and a kernel rewrite.

Patents and IP protection are also hot-button issues at the moment, the source said, particularly after Microsoft Corp. has raised the stakes on this front, saying it believes that even open-source software companies will have to pay for the IP and patented technology of others.

Another source told eWEEK that while there is a lot of activity around IP and patent protection in the open-source community, those initiatives to his knowledge are not related in any way to next weeks announcement.

In fact, as eWEEK first reported last November, the Free Software Foundation, the steward of the GPL (GNU General Public License), is already working on the first revamp to the license in 13 years.

The changes planned for the next release, Version 3, focus on several broad topics that reflect the dynamic change in the software industry since the early 1990s—intellectual property licensing and patent issues, the question of how to deal with software used over a network, and concerns around trusted computing.

Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., also announced last November that it will expand its IP protection policy and now will cover all customers using current and earlier versions of its software, in a move designed to further differentiate its products from Linux competitors.

HP, Novell and Red Hat all have also announced plans to protect their enterprise Linux customers. For example, Red Hats Open Source Assurance Plan is designed to protect customers Linux investments and ensure that they are legally able to continue to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux without any interruption.

IBM also threw its hat into the ring last week when it announced that is was giving individuals, groups, communities and companies working on open-source software free and unfettered access to innovations covered by 500 of its software patents.


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