No Justification Need

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.