April 22, 2004

OSDL doubling membership, seizing China chance

Author: Jay Lyman

With an eye on pumping up its desktop initiative and customer advisory councils in the U.S. and Europe, as well as riding a swell of Linux and open source adoption in Asia, the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) is on track to double its membership by year's end, OSDL Chief Executive Officer Stuart Cohen told NewsForge last week.

Cohen, who touted the addition of seven new partner companies since the end of the year, said the lab is well on its way to doubling the 2003 roster of 33 companies to 66 or more by this year's end.

"We think we're well on track to get to 66 or 70," Cohen said. "We're doing a lot of work with ISVs as it relates to getting ISVs to port to Linux and to have flexibility of running applications across multiple distributions around the world. Because that's clearly what
big business is looking for, as well as governments. The availability of ISVs and applications running seamlessly across distributions is an important effort for us."

OSDL Director of Marketing Nelson Pratt added that significant new OSDL members -- "some companies who look a lot like our current, big companies; two that are very close that are as influential in their industry segments as any already in the membership" -- may be announced later this month. Although the lab is working diligently to bring Oracle on board, Pratt said the software giant is not one of those likely to be announced soon.

Cohen, speaking from OSDL's Beaverton, Ore., headquarters, said OSDL has been focused on getting its desktop initiative announced and running through steering committee meetings that are continuing next month. The lab has also been working to bolster customer advisory councils -- an existing U.S. body and the start of a similar council in Europe (six countries, 15 companies), to be followed by another program in Japan that kicked off with an "executive education session" in Tokyo, said Cohen, who just hit his one-year mark heading the lab.

"We picked up the momentum we wanted to there," Cohen said. "That's helping a great deal. From a user standpoint, that's been very good for us. From a market standpoint, we've been doing a lot."

In addition to speaking engagements and press activities to accelerate Linux, Cohen mentioned OSDL's legal defense fund to counter any fear of lawsuit or hesitation on Linux. The fund, launched in January with a goal of $10 million to defray legal expenses of Linux users involved in litigation with The SCO Group, is good insurance, but may not be necessary.

"We are pleased that even with SCO's activities, it has not slowed down the acceleration of Linux, and from some of the meetings we've participated in, industry events including ones from Forrester and IDC that show the same thing: that Linux is only on the increase," he said.

Nevertheless, Cohen said OSDL is in talks regarding legal aid with organizations that have been sued by SCO.

Pratt, who indicated Linux adoption may have become more quiet since the SCO threats and suits, said the lab had succeeded in integrating itself into the Linux marketing activities of member and non-member companies.

Cohen said the adoption and use of Linux was spreading in every geographical area, with particular emphasis on desktops in China, servers and business in Japan, and businesses and academia in the U.S.

"I would say it's different in each of the major geographies," Cohen said. "China is very interested in Linux -- very interested in accelerating the use of Linux -- much more so on the desktop because the PC penetration is so low. A lot of them are getting PCs for the first time. They clearly believe in open source software. They clearly believe it's a great job opportunity for them to create jobs and create a software industry and to build something that their people will use themselves."

"They're either the biggest market today or they're going to be the biggest market in the future," Cohen said. "They are very involved. We have a few members from China today. We have a lot of activity in China and we will open an office in China soon."

"China wants OSDL to be somewhat of a bridge to the rest of the world," Cohen said. "So there's a big role we're playing with the rest of the world as it relates to the development community and to the vendors around the world that will participate in the China market."

Japan, where ODSL has one-third of its members and its other main facilities, is more focused on servers and business, but also has significant Linux and open source opportunities in colleges, universities, and governments, according to Cohen.

He added that the island nation's consumer electronics industry is also very interested in Linux.

"We spend time working with them as well," Cohen said. "Although it's not specifically part of our charter, they are very much focused on what's going on with Linux and how do we
collaborate together, specifically the Consumer Electronic Linux Forum."

Cohen said European efforts are just under way with the customer advisory council there
and possibly another OSDL office in the future. Still, European industry and governments are
"very much focused on open source."

"The government is very much behind open source and business is transitioning to Linux
pretty rapidly in the different countries," he said.

Cohen said there has not been much work in South America, except for OSDL's work with
Brazilian-based Conectiva.

Cohen said in the U.S., like Japan, the focus is much more on businesses, colleges, and
universities, but unlike Japan, less on government.

"The government is not active and we're not active with the government, although it's certainly an opportunity for us to do some things there," Cohen said.


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