The article is primarily a presentation of open source as a business strategy. It's subtitled "Open Source isn't for everyone. But it can work wonders when companies know what they're doing." The first full page is about HP's decision to open E-speak.
Okay. That's not too bad. It looks like HP's trying to leverage this pseudo-freedom to create a de facto standard. It may not be what some consider morally ideal, but it's a bigger step in the right direction than some other companies have taken. Rojas then goes on to talk about VA Linux and Collab.net setting up SourceForge.com and SourceXchange, "to host open-source projects, allowing companies to effectively outsource the management of their open-source projects." Why would companies care about that? Because "upstarts like Apache and Sendmail can gain such phenomenal market share...without spending any significant money on marketing, advertising, or research and development."
What? Yeah, Apache grew out of NCSA's old web server; compared to, say, IBM, sure, they're toddlers. But Sendmail as a piece of software has been around for quite a while longer. I'd hardly call them "upstarts".
The next bit is a little disturbing, too. Rojas quotes ESR: "There is a component of idealism, but this shift in thinking is mainly due to fear, a fear that your competition will use the greater efficiency of the open-source model to produce better software, much faster than you ever could."
Pay attention, folks. That's important. Open source is not just an idealistic dream, it's a business strategy. And if your company doesn't use it, your competitor(s) will. This is boss-think--flawed, but that's never stopped 'em before. The obvious problem with this has been discussed here at K5 a couple times already. Even people who work without direct monetary compensation because they love the product don't like to be taken for granted. Rojas doesn't deal with the issue until much later. He goes on for another few paragraphs that look like they were lifted from a wordier draft of "the Cathedral and the Bazaar".
The Internet has only sped up the pace of collaboration. Now with email, FTP servers, discussion boards, and Web sites dedicated to specific projects, participation is easy, no matter where you are. Programmers can now send in their code, notify others about bugs, and download the latest versions of the program instantaneously.
*dingdingding* Give the man a cookie!
When I read that paragraph is when I knew I had to post this. I can't even express how it disturbs me to see something written like email, FTP, and newsgroups are hot new technologies. Especially in a publication that's intended for people on the business end of technology. Doubly so in an article about what I consider to be such an important idea to convey accurately and clearly to those kinds of people. Someone, somewhere along the editorial food chain, should've caught this.
Blah, blah, blah. More on VA's consulting services. More on how to make money off open source software (short version: sell support like Cobalt or convenience like Red Hat).
Another mini-case study: WapIT used open source to establish their de facto standard.
Back to VA for awhile; fun catchphrase: ICO => "Initial Code Offering".
Segue to "Rob Malda, founder of the programmer news site Slashdot.org", who explained that Mozilla development started very slow because the code was such a mess.
"[P]rogrammer news site". *snicker*
Blah, blah, blah, spend the better part of a full page of text trying to explain copyright, licenses, OSI, OSD, GPL, LGPL, NPL, MPL, segue back to sluggish Netscape and picking the wrong license hurt them, too--it made them look like they were trying to take advantage of the community.
Um, yeah. That's bad. It's also the only time that particular (and fairly common) gripe about companies opening their code is mentioned in six dense pages of text. Rojas never once mentions the negative PR from "abandonware".
Next, if you're going to open the source of something, be sure someone clueful is at the helm. Linux would've flopped without its "benevolent dictator" Linus Torvalds.
Back to VA for a minute, still consulting on how to do it right. Mr. Malda reminds us that volunteers will go away if the company ignores them long enough.
Managed properly, with the needs of the community in mind, the controlled chaos of an open-source project can create not just impressive software, but amazing business opportunities as well.
Directed properly, a community of technologists can help steer business discussions of open source the right direction. Some of my comments may have been a little too snide; the article does show some depth of understanding, it just fails to present it at a consistent level. What would we have said instead?