John Dvorak has a recent post explaining what he
thinks Microsoft is up to with this
Novell deal. The part I picked up on was this:
Microsoft has been leery of doing too much with Linux because of all the weirdness with the licenses and the possibility that one false move would make a Microsoft product public domain at worst, or subject to the GPL at best. As far as old-school software companies are concerned, the GPL - the GNU General Public License - is a ridiculous pain to deal with, especially if you have a unique invention that you want to bring to the party - and want to make money doing so.
Call me crazy, but I think people worry way too much about their source code. It's not that valuable, it's not that important, and releasing it to the public doesn't necessarily mean your instant death. That's especially true for operating system code, but can be just as true for applications.
I've mentioned this before: with a little imagination, I think any company can meet the letter of the GPL without worrying a bit about anyone making off with their market. That's even more true for Microsoft than a Linux company, but a quick look at Linux open source shows what I mean: there are market leaders making money with their source code exposed to the world. How is that possible?
Because source code isn't necessarily all that helpful. Even when people actually WANT you to be able reuse their code, it can be hard. If someone deliberately obfuscates and tries to make things difficult, source code can be nearly useless. This is true for apps and operating systems, and when you control both, you can be even more confusing and opaque.
Of course that ignores the issue of outright copying. A business using this model completely (all open source) has to either control the hardware or live on support revenues. Or, as Dvorak's article describes, shim code can keep part of the code "safe". Nothing appetizing for Microsoft there,,
But everyone else probably worries too much, especially when most of their business is already support or requires a connection back to home base for necessary data and/or updates. And even Microsoft could operate as RedHat does in the Linux market: yes, someone like Centos could "steal" your stuff, but that doesn't necessarily give them marketshare.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2011-05-01 Anthony Lawrence