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© November 2006 Anthony Lawrence

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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Thu Nov 9 17:33:42 2006: 2602   TonyLawrence

Relevant to all this, see (link)

(the point being that Firefox effectively protects itself with artwork)

Fri Nov 10 01:34:56 2006: 2603   drag

Your comment on the "don't protect the source code" is right on the money.

And to prove this you have John Camerak from Id Software. They are the company that produces the 'Doom' and 'Quake' series of video games, which are some of the most successfull games of all times. Nowadays Id software concentrates on producing cutting edge gaming engines for other companies to use to produce video games.

Gaming engines are basicly like a platform or maybe even close to operating system for third parties to build off of to make complex video games at much reduced costs then would be otherwise possible.

Well Id has always been open with it's source code, even though their line of working getting the maximum performance out of PCs and trying to get groundbreaking new rendering technics and such is what sells their software. So if anybody has anything to hide it would be them.

But no. John has come out and said that it's stupid to be paraniod about source code.

Even for games and such they are open. While most of the industry is moving to huge amounts of DRM like the spyware-like 'StarForce' (link) to prevent software piracy. If your a linux user you can just buy a cdrom, copy the data files off of it and head down to ftp.idsoftware.com and download the actual game and run it on your system. The only 'protection' is a little cdkey thing you have to type in.

They have a fantasticly good attitude compared to other companies. And it's insanely competive market with billions of dollars worth of revenue being fought over. And consistantly Id is able to beat other companies to market with the best gaming engines with the highest code quality and newest features.

In addition to that they have GPL'd the older game engines, such as the original doom and all quake1, quake2, and quake3 games. Right now open source hobbyists are busy making some fairly good quality games and such that you can download and play based on code Id donated to the community.

They've also even released some of their game development tools under the GPL, such as GtkRadiant. Every other large company in the industry would NEVER considure doing anything like that.

Then you have people like Sun open sourcing their Solaris operating system.
They even are talking about releasing Java under the GPL.

Microsoft is finding it very hard to compete with Linux in the embedded market. So much so that they have released the source code fro Windows CE kernel under a look-but-don't-touch license.

In a few years its probably going to be just assumed that your going to be able to get the source code for software that your using, even if it is not under the GPL or other open source license. The way I look at it is that if a company isn't willing to open their software up at least partially people are going to start to steer clear because it will be assumed that they have something to hide.


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