[lug] Software patents

Rob Nagler nagler at bivio.biz
Sun May 31 08:06:06 MDT 2009

One way to look at Sun is an open source company.  Another way is to
look at is a proprietary software company releasing enough source to
allow people to be "hooked" on its protocols, just like Microsoft does
with MSDN.   Both are "open source", but neither was free.  Java's
license is very restrictive so I don't consider it open source, in the
sense of OSF.

One of the reasons Microsoft was so successful was that it source was
always open.  I'm sure some old-timers on this list will remember
getting printouts of the entire BIOS in every MSDOS manual.

I think IBM has done a much better job of embracing open source.
Oracle is an interesting case, because it embraced Linux very early
on, and gave out free development versions to Linux developers.   If
Sun had embraced open source earlier, e.g. open-sourcing Solaris in
the 1990s, instead of 2005, Linux would never had a chance to escape.
One could argue it was the restrictive Unix license that prevented
this, but OTOH, if a kid in Finland could rewrite Unix (and a
professor in The Netherlands), it is pretty clear that Sun could have
clean-sourced OpenSolaris much earlier than it did.

I would also argue that Sun was forced into being more open with Java
by IBM's implementation (Jikes in 1998).  It's nice that Sun has
released Java under the GPL, but it was already too late.


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