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|SUBJECT ||Subject: [hangout] Guest editorial: Open source for capitalists
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From: "Inker, Evan"
Subject: [hangout] Guest editorial: Open source for capitalists
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 2004 13:03:10 -0000
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List: New Yorker GNU Linux Scene
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Foreword: This essay by Matt Asay explains why he and others organized the
inaugural Open Source Business Conference, set to take place March 16-17 at
the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square in San Francisco. Asay and others
organized the OSBC in their free time. Asay currently works for Novell,
previously worked at Lineo. and studied under Open Source legal expert
Lawrence Lessig at Stanford.
Open Source for Capitalists
Open source, though growing fast, has not yet "won." We stand at a pivotal
moment. Open source developers have done their job. They write great
software. They have developed an infrastructure upon which companies and
individuals can build, without fear of having the platform used against
Yet despite all the attention paid to open source; all the momentum behind
it; and all the progress it has made, the open source community has
overlooked one critical ingredient to its ultimate, overwhelming success:
While some will disagree, open source cannot claim victory until it is
paying the salaries of its core developers, as well as creating jobs for
associated services (Sales, Marketing, etc.). That is, I view a fair
measurement of open source's success to be its impact on the global economy.
More money. More jobs. More software, doing more things that are useful to
And yet there has been virtually no public discussion of the topic. One book
(Thanks, Clayton!), and just about nothing else.
In mid-2003, I founded Open Source Business Conference to fill the void.
Why me? I'm not sure. Maybe no one else felt the pain that I felt, and could
marry that to a job that frequently took them to industry conferences where
the void was obnoxiously evident. Having worked for two years with an
embedded Linux startup (Lineo), and then for another 1.5 years for Novell, I
was tired of butting my head against the monetization problem. My companies
could not afford to embrace open source and contribute to it without
measurable and significant return on that investment.
Given this, it was galling to read the self-trumpery of some in the
community who too easily accepted the "Open Source will win because open
source is Right/True/Divine" argument. Successful as open source has been,
it has not been a wild commercial success, a failing that I was convinced
would persist without successful business models to promote it. (I used to
battle constantly with my professor, Larry Lessig, on this topic. I think he
was glad to have the semester end.) No, there had to be money in the
equation to make open source truly dominate.
LinuxWorld San Francisco, while great in many respects, proved the straw
that broke this camel's back. On my flight back from the conference, I
complained to a good friend about its dearth of open source business
discussion. He encouraged me to do something about it (I guess he did not
want to listen to me whine), and we spent the rest of the flight sketching
out a rough speaker and topic list, plus a budget. I soon convinced two
other friends to join the planning of the conference, both with a background
in open source, and away we went.
Instead of opening the conference to speaker proposals, we hand-selected
each speaker (with very few exceptions). My job with Novell took me to just
about every industry event: I knew who had interesting things to say. We
reached out to them, and slowly built a formidable conference faculty, one
that is today absolutely unparalleled in the industry. With Clayton
Christensen (Author, The Innovator's Dilemma and the follow-up The
Innovator's Solution) as our cornerstone, the best open source business
minds flocked to the conference.
We then assigned topics to these speakers, because we wanted the conference
to address very specific issues that have yet to be resolved. These topics
What business models will drive open source for the coming decade?
What open source business models are proving successful today, and what are
their shortcomings? How does dual-licensing work? Is there life beyond
services for Red Hat? Need there be?
How do corporations integrate their development teams and roadmaps into the
What effect is this having on the community, as corporations seek to exert
influence over open communities?
How can traditionally closed-source vendors and buyers adopt open source
while mitigating legal risks inherent to the open source development model?
Where are the growth areas for open source, and which areas of the software
stack are unlikely to be commoditized by open source in the near term?
Finally, what do vendors and the community need to provide end-users to make
it commercially viable for them to deploy on a wide scale?
OSBC will attempt to answer these questions, among others. While it is
doubtful that The Answer will be found to any one of these important
questions at OSBC, my hope is that OSBC will provide fertile soil for good
ideas to be planted and grow. That is its purpose: to drive the commercial
viability of open source software, and consequently breed more of it.
Eight months later, I think OSBC will meet this goal. It has been a total
garageworks, built from scratch in the organizers' spare time. No
corporation is behind it, though each of our employers (especially Novell, I
must say) has been supportive. We bootstrapped every aspect of the
conference. But next week, attendees will be treated to an amazing
collection of the industry's brightest minds and top strategists. It is not
an opportunity to be missed. We've needed this conference, and now we have
it. Come join the conversation.
The Open Source Business Conference: Home of Open Source Capitalism will
take place Mar. 16-17, at the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square in San
Francisco, CA. More details are available at the OSBC Website.
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