May 10, 2001

The voice of Love: Microsoft gave Open Source a back-handed compliment

Author: JT Smith

- by Jack Bryar -
Open Source Business -

The merger between Caldera and SCO is complete and
there's a new leader in the Linux marketplace, according to Caldera CEO
Ransom Love. Love's message may be news to the Open Source community, as well. It
boils down to this: Don't get mad at Microsoft. They've given you a
compliment, and they're not entirely wrong. There is nothing wrong with standards.
There is nothing wrong with making money. There really is something
wrong with the GPL, and "Linux Religionists" need to get over it. Is Love an
Open Source apostate or just the most honest businessman in the marketplace?I spoke with Love over the phone the other day, shortly after
Caldera's takeover of SCO became final. I asked him for his thoughts about
Caldera and Linux, going forward, and to talk about how he's regarded in the
Open Source community.

Caldera's Web site claims it is now the largest Linux company in the
world. I asked him about that. He said, "Based on infrastructure,
the size of the company and the geographic distribution" of the company's
installed base, Caldera was the largest. "We're in 82 countries," said Love. "That's
important. We can take Linux solutions into every major market." A maturing Linux marketplace needed companies capable of providing solutions to global enterprises, he added.

But is Caldera really an Open Source, Linux company? I pointed out
that Caldera and Corel had been held at arm's length by many in the
community, and that when Linux International's Jon "maddog" Hall attacked
Microsoft the other day, he rolled off the usual names of the leading Linux
companies, including Red Hat, Turbolinux, SuSE -- in fact, nearly
everybody but Caldera.

He said he thought that was "an oversight. Maddog was the first to
congratulate me." Love said that he and Hall had "shared a vision for years of
unifying Linux and Unix." Love added he had a good relationship with Hall, and
he had sat on the board of Linux International.

Love admits that he does "have a problem with those members of the
Linux community that are more Religionist, than Pragmatist." Love puts
himself squarely in the Pragmatist camp.

"Look, Open Source business has been going through a maturation
process, that's been painful, but necessary." In order to survive, Linux
companies "have to do what is necessary to make Linux the alternative business
platform." And that means they have to make Linux a paying proposition

Love warns
that if Linux companies don't survive, then companies like IBM will be driving the
Linux marketplace, and they don't have the same stake in the platform.
He said, "Linux is just a facilitator to a firm like IBM. It allows
them to sell more hardware and services." IBM is an important partner to
Caldera, and Love says that IBM "is still very committed to Linux, but it's
because it gets them in the door. Linux doesn't make the company any money, but
Linux support makes money, and hardware makes money. Linux helps them
sell more hardware." But, Love says, a Linux-based software company
needs to give Linux a financial success. According to Love, it means that
Linux software developers "have to be able to protect their intellectual
property and charge" for services and software. "Free? That word doesn't work."

Love admits that some Open Source advocates "may be threatened" by
his views.

Among those views are a very clear-eyed assessment of Microsoft. He
thinks the Open Source community is taking personally what amounts to a
backhanded compliment from the trolls of Redmond. He also thinks Microsoft has a
point. Love suggested that instead of getting offended by the "shared source"
speech given by Microsoft's Craig Mundie last week, Open Source fans should
"applaud." He said, " Read between the lines of what they [Microsoft] are saying.
They are saying that Open source is a winning development model. It's
forcing a change in Microsoft's business model. Why? Because customers are
demanding it." Love believes that Microsoft is doing what any other company would
do under similar circumstances, "They are spreading uncertainty and
doubt ... FUD about their competition at the same time as they're trying to find
a way to embrace this new approach." Love says that if you look at what
Mundie was saying, "it's an admission of defeat."

Besides, Love says, some of what Mundie said was legitimate, and
that the Open Source community needs "to look to
an alternative to the GPL license." Or -- at least embrace a pragmatic,
half-way covenant, where some development is based on GPL, and some is
not.

"We need to use GPL when it is appropriate, when we need to create a
standard ... to make something ubiquitous." He noted that Caldera's
Volution platform is GPLed. "But we need to use it where it is suited. To drive
more commercial development, to provide the financial freedom to developers,
it's OK to be honest. The GPL does not provide the protection needed to
make a commercial model. That's a fair statement." Love suggests that
are are alternative license arrangements that may be more appropriate for
some development, and that developers should be able to consider open models
like "BSD as a more commercial model." Love says that Microsoft is
trying to mix Open Source and the GPL together to spread confusion
and cover the evolution in their approach.

Isn't the GPL almost the same as Open Source? Love argues "at the beginning
there was this Euphoria-ism." But, he says, "GPL was not the reason for
the success of Open Source." He says, "Others share our view. Some are
still caught up in Religion, but we're all a little older and wiser."

But what about all the developers of embedded Linux? Many of them
operate with GPL licenses. Love suggests that even embedded developers need
some protection, "otherwise they're vulnerable to a firm like a Wind River."
Besides, Love suggests that the embedded market "has so many different
flavors, and are such niche players" that there's little competition,
but he asks, "Is that really a successful business model?"

Besides, Love suggests that Linux needs to become more standardized
if it is to succeed as a platform for independent software developers (ISVs)
and system integrators. We talked about the tendency of some ISVs to
announce support of Red Hat Linux or TurboLinux, rather than Linux itself.
Love said, "ISVs are demanding a single standard. They can't tolerate three to four
flavors." Love suggests that without a solid standard, ISVs "will gravitate to a
single software provider. They can't afford to worry about diverging
supplier agendas." According to Love that means that the Linux community needs
to rally around Linux Standard Base (LSB). Caldera is a very enthusiastic
member of the LSB. Love says "LSB rather than the kernel" has to be
the core of the standard if the platform is going to viable for commercial
developers.

Isn't that more restrictive? What about the hobbyists who started
the whole Linux movement?

Love says that Linux "has to be more than a kid's sandbox, where
there's no timelines, no responsibility. As a commercial vendor, we have to
have responsibility, and standards to go forward. Linux standards don't take
away anyone's freedom. It facilitates freedom. It's like the
government: When we wrote the Constitution, we set down some regulations and
standards, and the result was more freedom, not less." Besides, Love suggests that
a more disciplined standardized platform will attract thousands of
other developers who want the freedom of Open Source, but without the chaos.

As for the future of Caldera, Love is optimistic, like any good CEO.
"We've got a solid pipeline. Our relationship with IBM is going well --
we have a lot of mutual customers. We're
anxious to support Intel Itanium OEMs, we're interested in working with
IBM on software, we're working with Open Unix, so that Linux ports can
scale, when they need to do that. I think we are in a good position,
that resonates with the commercial market. I know we'll get arrows shot at
us from the GPL community, but If we have a success developing a platform
for the high volume hardware market we are after, the OEMs, and ISVs ...
we can all win. We need to see the Open Source marketplace change. We
want to bridge the gap between the Open Source community and the needs of
the commercial marketplace. That commercial marketplace is the future. We
want to be the bridge to that future."

Category:

  • Open Source
Click Here!