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Sun "Believes In IP" But Not In "IP Colonialism," Says Schwartz at Open Source Conference

Praises JBoss in San Francisco Keynote; "Free" Doesn't Mean "No Revenue" It Means "More Opportunity to Create Revenue," He Says

At the inaugural Open Source Business Conference, which opened today in San Francisco, Jonathan Schwartz has been giving a keynote. We bring here an early on-the-spot report, written by former JDJ editor-in-chief and LinuxWorld Magazine founding editor, Alan Williamson.

Jonathan Schwartz, President and COO of Sun Microsystems, today opened up the spring Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) in San Francisco. The OSBC is aimed at the business side of the open source ecosystem, with delegates ranging from a wide range of areas. It is fair to characterize this community as comprising "influencers" or decision makers, and it was to this audience profile that Schwartz pitched his keynote.

Schwartz opened up his discussion on standards by noting historical success stories, examples of where standards worked. For example the canal system in Victorian England with their standard widths and lock sizes, through to the railroad system in the US with its standard guage. By standardizing on a platform, more opportunity was created.

In the first of many swipes at Microsoft (who incidentally are co-sponsors of OSBC and will be speaking later on in the day), Schwartz highlighted a story of Thomas Edison who initially attempted to get his DC standard for electricity adopted instead of AC. He achieved this by illustrating how unsafe AC was by "frying dogs and farm animals" in the hope of promoting how safe DC was in comparison. Not much seems to have changed in this modern economy!

Open Source, as far Schwartz is concerned, is about lowering the barrier to entry and creating opportunity. Just as telcos are giving away their mobile phones, Schwartz sees a day where automobile manufacturers may give away cars to consumers to garner a whole new suite of chargeable services. Again, hammering home the point that free doesn't necessarily equate to "no revenue" but instead means "more opportunity to create revenue."

Hot on the heels of the Sun's announcement of OpenSolaris, Schwartz made countless references to this as being "single largest contribution to the open source world" any company had ever made. He continued to address the concerns he had heard in the marketplace that Sun was attempting to "steal away" customers from Linux, saying that on the contrary Sun believes there is more than just one community, that many communities exist and more are being generated; that a rising tide floats all boats.

By contrast it was interesting to hear Schwartz portray Sun as the all-embracing company. Contrary to many historical keynotes when Sun and JBoss were locked in battle, Schwartz made a number of references to JBoss as a shining example of open source in action, both in terms of its business model and how it has utilized the open standardization that Java has created.

On the subject of Java, Schwartz also addressed criticism of the alleged hypocrisy of Sun's message for not having released Java under GPL.

He answered this criticism by asserting that the licensing of Java was not the issue: Sun wants to keep Java from forking into different incompatible versions, thus depriving the many companies that rely on Java as a standard of their business opportunity.

Schwartz continued to discuss GPL, issuing a cautionary warning regarding the use of this particular license noting that Sun "believes in IP" but not in "IP colonialism." He talked about how licenses imply an obligation and one must be very careful to read the small print.

Finally Schwartz tailed off, talking about how a product should be adopted because it's better and not because it's free.

More Stories By Alan Williamson

Alan Williamson is widely recognized as an early expert on Cloud Computing, he is Co-Founder of aw2.0 Ltd, a software company specializing in deploying software solutions within Cloud networks. Alan is a Sun Java Champion and creator of OpenBlueDragon (an open source Java CFML runtime engine). With many books, articles and speaking engagements under his belt, Alan likes to talk passionately about what can be done TODAY and not get caught up in the marketing hype of TOMORROW. Follow his blog, http://alan.blog-city.com/ or e-mail him at cloud(at)alanwilliamson.org.

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