[conspire] Re: Sun's strategy to discredit Linux.

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Oct 8 12:50:50 PDT 2004

Quoting Christian Einfeldt (einfeldt at earthlink.net):

> > Please see:  "Fear of Forking" on
> > http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Licensing_and_Law for background on the
> > proprietary Unix wars of bygone years.
> Thanks for your thoughtful reply!  Particularly the fear of forking 
> link.  It was all very informative!  

Thanks for taking my answer in the spirit intended.  I hope I didn't 
sound too harried, because (actually) I was pretty harried when I wrote
that -- but for reasons completely unrelated to your posts.  (Sadly,
today's turning out to be pretty darned hectic, too, but I wanted to
acknowledge your post.)

The Tim O'Reilly essay you cited
(http://tim.oreilly.com/opensource/paradigmshift_0504.html) is one where
Tim points out and explores one of the obvious consequences of open
source:  When most basic software becomes commodity goods, most
competitive commercial advantage tends to reside, in Tim's words,
"higher in the stack".   That is, people use commodity components,
including software, to create services that, as bundles, are "owned" in
some sense by one particular player.

Where Tim is playing games with words -- and, one suspects, quite
consciously so -- is in suggesting that (e.g.) Google's ability to
create a searching-based empire without handing over its database
schemas and network designs somehow renders the entire structure
proprietary, and in suggesting that Red Hat's control over "branding"
and resulting marketing "network effect" renders _its_ entire structure
proprietary.  Ditto Amazon.com with its "processes" that tend to keep it
on top of its market mostly thanks to having gotten there first.

Tim at least implies -- he's a bit cagey about this, lapsing into fuzzy
pundit-talk about "Internet operating systems" and open source being 
"a field of scientific and economic inquiry" at the drop of a hat --
that open source somehow myopically failed to anticipate business models
such as Google's, Red Hat's, and Amazon's, or somewhere denied their

Gee, Tim, give us a little credit, will you?  The aim was never to
prevent people from using open source software as tools to create things
they can (in effect) control, but rather to make sure that the software
tools themselves remain maintainable and usable by any party.

In other words, you're not guaranteed the right to beat Red Hat in
operating system usage, or Amazon in selling books, or Google in search
engines; you're merely guaranteed unimpeded developer and user-level
access to the same (open source) software tools they used to get where
they are.  

Open source's assumption is that software tools matter:  The point is
that those become permanently available use or further develop for any
purpose, and are a level playing field, devoid of proprietary friction
and control effects embedded merely in those tools themselves.  

Anyone who sees this as mere "commoditising" is missing the point -- and
Tim knows better, but plays these games continually because his target 
audience eats it up.

I'm sorry that isn't very profound, but, hey's Tim's essay wasn't
either.  ;->

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