November 20, 2003 12:31 PM PST
Panel: Shared work, not suits, key to open source
That was the message from the main open-source discussion at the Comdex trade show Thursday, where panelists focused on the value of collaboration and tried--almost successfully--to ignore distractions like the SCO legal battle.
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Marten Mickos, CEO of open-source database company MySQL, said the open-source movement has shown that individual developers working together can be more effective than big, corporate project teams.
"We very much think that innovation does not come from a big (research and development) budget," he said. "Open-source development is showing us the real power of innovation is in collaboration."
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Even Microsoft sees some benefit in sharing code to encourage collaboration among developers, declared Jason Matusow, manager of Microsoft's "shared source" projects. He said such efforts to selectively open up parts of the Windows source code have benefited customers and Microsoft.
"We've seen that transparency does increase trust," he said. "I don't think that makes us an open-source company...But it shows all of us are learning from open source."
The value of collaboration goes beyond hashing out code, added Allan Vermuelen, chief technical officer of Amazon.com. He said that while the online retailer has benefited from shifting most of its major systems to Linux, it's also benefited from having customers add value to the site through reviews, lists and other contributions. "Amazon.com is really an application where a lot of people collaborate to make it better," he said.
The SCO case was raised toward the end of the discussion. While O'Reilly and other panelists scoffed at SCO's claims, Matusow said they should at least have developers thinking about intellectual property (IP) issues.
"The existing software industry for the past 25 years has relied primarily on trade secrets," he said. "If you go down a path where you say transparency is critical, then you have to strengthen the other pillars of IP law."