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No Justification Need

Mar 28, 2008, 22:30 (7 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

So much to choose from this week, and a flat tire this morning has put me in a stellar mood.

What's at the forefront of my crabbiness is the almost-complete capture of the Open Source Business Conference's news cycle by Brad Smith's presence at that conference left me wondering who else was even there this week, other than Smith, Matt Asay, and a few pundits and luminaries. In a nicely done spin for the media, OSBC suddenly became about how Microsoft braved the lion's den, instead of the real progress a lot of companies are making in open source development and business.

I have a suggestion for Asay: feel free to invite whomever you want to the next OSBC, but try to refrain from making it all about how the community deals with Microsoft. Perhaps try highlighting all the good the community is doing for itself.

For instance: OpenOffice.org 2.4 came out this week, a step forward for the venerable office suite. I have been more frustrated of late, though, by the lack of marketing push for OpenOffice.org from Sun Microsystems or IBM, two of the big corporate sponsors for the project. I have yet to hear a good reason why this application cannot replace the functionality of Office, and yet other than a few government organizations and schools who need to save a buck, we hardly hear anything about major deployments. I've played with Office 2007, and I'm saying right here that it ain't no great shakes. What's holding the marketing back to take advantage of the aging of Office 2003?

Another example: Red Hat posted some nice earnings this week. Seriously, their results are impressive. I can't really hold the OSBC folks accountable for this lack of news, since Red Hat waited until after the conference was over to call their numbers. Jim Whitehurst was at the conference, which was good, and from what I heard he didn't feel the need to explain Red Hat's place in the universe as related to Redmond. Good for him. Besides, a few more years like 2007, and it could be Microsoft in Red Hat's orbit.

This has been, I think, a real problem for Linux lately. It always seems to be in response mode to something someone says or does or designs. Maybe it's time to start noticing that there are a lot of areas where Linux leads: web servers, embedded devices, supercomputers. Maybe it's time businesses in the open source community stop being apologists for the open source concept and start getting on with making killer products.

Open source, meine Damen und Herren, has arrived. It pulled into the station, I think, a couple of years ago. There's no need to justify it anymore. If anything, proprietary companies should start justifying to customers why they feel it necessary to charge outrageous prices for equivalent products and services that the open source companies provide at much lower rates? Think I'm exaggerating? When's the last time you heard a TCO argument coming from an "independent" analyst? That's because that ship has sailed... and sank.

Is everything all roses and sunshine with Linux and open source? No, and it never will be. Nothing is perfect, and improvements are always necessary. But in the open source model, everyone can see that changes that need to be made. They are not hidden as undisclosed bugs and security gaps.

It is time, I believe, to start getting on with business as usual. And stop worrying about how Linux can interoperate with every software platform. They should be worrying about interoperating with Linux.