[lug] Software patents

Zooko O'Whielacronx zookog at gmail.com
Sun May 31 09:20:03 MDT 2009

On Sun, May 31, 2009 at 8:06 AM, Rob Nagler <nagler at bivio.biz> wrote:
> 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.

Sun may have taken that strategy at some times, but at the end (under
Jonathan Schwartz), they were fully embracing open source in a way
that no large company ever has before, and I suspect none ever will

>  Java's
> license is very restrictive so I don't consider it open source, in the
> sense of OSF.

What's OSF?  Sun's Java implementation was (finally) open-sourced
(GPL'ed) under Schwartz.

> I think IBM has done a much better job of embracing open source.

Why?  I think IBM has done a great job of public relations targetted
at open source lovers to make them feel like IBM is a big friendly
cool company, but they actually control a whole lot of proprietary
software and patents and contribute relatively little (compared to
Sun) open source software.

> Oracle is an interesting case, because it embraced Linux very early
> on, and gave out free development versions to Linux developers.

This sounds like an example of the "get you hooked on our proprietary
systems" strategy ("loss leader"), rather than an example of Free/Open
Source Software.

> If
> Sun had embraced open source earlier,
> It's nice that Sun has
> released Java under the GPL, but it was already too late.

I can't argue with you about alternative histories -- what you say
sounds plausible -- but it is important to note that in the final few
years, Sun really was the *only* large company that broadly embraced
open source.  It was a vast, historic experiment in redirecting a
multi-billion dollar company to fully embrace the philosophy that all
of its products ought to be open-sourced, and I'm afraid that the
lesson that business school students are going to be learning in their
courses for the next couple of decades is that it failed, and big
companies shouldn't do that.



P.S.  Oh, whoops, I just remembered that I'm posting to the LINUX
users group, not the Free/Open Source Software users group.  If this
discussion is all about how friendly and supportive Sun was toward
*linux* then that's an entirely different matter.

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