Anybody attened Stanford Open Source in Business Forum?

Mike Touloumtzis
Fri, 20 Nov 1998 16:01:20 -0800

I was there.  I thought Bruce came across as a great deal more
conciliatory than I was expecting him to be.  His speech near the
conclusion, in which he basically said "using Windows is OK, making money
from software is OK, I have no problems with it," really cast him as a
feet-on-the-ground guy.  He's a hardcore advocate, but he seems to be
approaching things from an intellectual property angle--safeguarding
the right of free software people to innovate and compete--rather
than from a Stallmanesque or radically anti-Microsoft perspective.
His message to commercial companies was "welcome to the free software
community, but don't fall into the trap of thinking we need you;
contribute something back to the community if you expect our cooperation."
Throughout the evening, him comments were insightful, abrasive, and funny.
The discussion wouldn't have been half as good without his input.

The Oracle guy was pretty sharp, too, and tended to agree with Bruce (he
nodded his head a lot).  Bruce was dead-on right when he claimed that some
people in business "get it" and others don't.  The panelist who didn't
get it most clearly (IMHO) was the representative of Sendmail, Inc.,
who betrayed that company's tendency to treat the open source community
as unpaid labor, and to make hackneyed assumptions that non-commercial
open source users are all Sendmail hackers who don't have a problem with
(and don't mind) groveling around in a file for days--so they
don't really care about improvements in ease of use.  It's that kind of
attitude that's visibly eroding Sendmail's grassroots support--they're
not the only game in town any more (as you folks probably know; ask a
question about sendmail on debian-user and get back a "switch to exim,
it's easier" response).  They'll have to get smarter and decide whether
they're a product or a service company, since sitting on the fence seems
to be counterproductive.  Hopefully someone from will see
this mail and experience sudden enlightenment :-)

No real attempt to draw out conclusions or wrap up the panel's discussion
was made (I thought the moderator could have done a better job), but my
overall impression was the money to be made off free products is really
money for services (with a bit of brand loyalty and altruism thrown in),
and that the distributors are fully aware of the service nature of their
industry--even the shrink wrapped Red Hat and SuSe boxes constitute
a service (presenting the content in a convenient and comforting form
factor, along with X amount of restricted but free support).  No one
has cracked the "billion dollar company" nut from a free-software-only
perspective; several (including Bruce) made a point of stressing the
fact that the traditional software business model isn't made obsolete
by free software--you just have to pick your fights more carefully and
stay alert.

Linus also had some interesting things to say in response to the
inevitable "can open source work for applications as well as for
infrastructure?" question--and the moderator barely gave him a chance
to speak.  He basically said that he used to think applications were
special, but that recently he's decided that they're not, just that
people do better building total free software systems from the bottom up.
He also betrayed the fact that he's an avid PowerPoint user--so start
gearing up for LinusPoint ;-).


On Fri, Nov 20, 1998 at 11:07:56AM -0800, Sudhakar Chandrasekharan wrote:
> Hi,
> Were any of you BAD folks at The Stanford Open Source in Business Forum
> yesterday?
> I was there.  I found some of Bruce Peren's comments ("I don't speak for
> Debian", "The food chain and tics", "The Free Software Movement has been
> surviving and will survive without the help of the money makers",
> "Infrastructure has to be free.  Appliccations need not be", etc. [Note:
> Not actual quotes.  I am recalling from memory]) interesting.  
> Would like to hear the impressions of others who might have attended.
> Thaths
> -- 
> "It's a handgun.  See, here is the trigger, and here is the thing you
>     point at whatever you want to be dead." -- Homer J. Simpson
> Sudhakar C13n   Indentured Slave