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If I Were in Charge of…

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

I was taking a walk with my wife the other day, talking about
all the kooky-nuttiness that is the Linux and Open Source world
sometimes. I think I was harping on a certain company in Washington
State and their recent “attempts” to “open source” some of their
code.

A consumate Linux spouse, she listened as I ranted and raved but
I could tell she was getting a bit weary of this latest session
when she said, “well, what would you do about it?”

That stopped me in my tracks. And got me thinking…

Many of us have decried Microsoft as the Great Satan of software
companies, a reputation that they haven’t exactly strived to get
rid of. We have also been hard at times towards all of the big
commercial vendors: Red Hat, IBM, Sun, Novell, Mandriva, Canonical,
Dell, HP… the list goes on. How often, though, do we get a chance
to step up and offer a positive suggestion to these companies?

Seriously, if you could make one suggestion to any company to
make it a better business, or perhaps more friendly towards open
source, what would it be?

I’d like to see if providing such a forum could provide some
interesting results.

Here are the ground rules: Pick any company, proprietary or open
source, and present an idea of how you would make the company
better. Better overall, or in the sense of being genuinely pro-open
source. The sky’s the limit. You’re the CEO for the day. I would
ask, though, that you refrain from the obvious banalities, such as
“burning every Microsoft building to the ground” or “throw Darl
McBride in jail.” What would you do if you could really direct the
actions of a software corporation, open source or otherwise?

I will start off with two, to give you an idea of what I
mean.

If I were in charge of Mandriva, I would make a concerted effort
to embrace the PCLinuxOS community and establish a relationship
with them similar to the Red Hat/Fedora or Canonical/Ubuntu
arrangements. PCLinuxOS is really taking off in terms of
popularity, and I think Mandriva could recapture some of its past
community glory by hitching a wagon to the PCLinuxOS star.

If I were in charge of Microsoft, I would open source a mid-tier
product. Just one to start with, but I would use a real open
license, like GPL or BSD or APL, etc. I would build a community
infrastruture around it and let my employees watch and finally
realize that open source, when properly done, is a good thing.

Realistic? Perhaps not. But I am genuinely curious on how the
Linux community would fix things if they were CEOs for just one
day.