Saturday, August 9, 2003
Sun: The Toxic Boyfriend
Sun Microsystem's Executive VP Jonathan Schwartz demonstrated Mad Hatter at Linux World. At the same time, he joined SCO and MS in attacking the GPL. His method was subtler -- or more devious, depending on your mood -- but you can catch his drift. It seems he thinks open-source coders shouldn't care so much about what license they use and just think about writing "better and cheaper" software. True BusinessThink that completely misses all points not exclusively about the bottom line.
Coders, at least GPL coders, don't volunteer their time and what the law likes to describe as "the sweat of their brow" so that the world can have cheaper software. It is cheaper and it is better, and naturally companies like that. But that wasn't and isn't the primary goal of free software. Open source kind of liked the sound of business' line for a while, or at least pretended to, so business would like them back, but free software never fell for it. The primary goal was and is freedom for users and programmers. Businesses that think they can use or coopt GNU/Linux without adopting the values will never make money from their efforts, minus the goodwill of the programmers. Here is what ITworld.com says Schwartz said:
"Jonathan Schwartz told an audience here at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo on Tuesday to worry more about the quality of their code than the software licenses that govern it.
"'The thing I worry about most with the open source community is the sentiment that open source is somehow different. It isn't,' he said. What makes the company's forthcoming bundle of desktop software, Mad Hatter, appealing is not that it is based on open source software, he said, but rather that it's 'better and it's cheaper.'"
Tell you the truth, kiddo, I'm worried about you right back. If you don't realize that open source, as you call it, is different, something must be wrong with you or with open source. Wonder what kind of license Mad Hatter will have? Me too.
This triumvirate thinks we are too stupid to get it. SCO's Tianemen Square style is to just drive a tank into a defenseless crowd. MS ...well, you know. But Sun appears to think they can charmingly trick everyone not otherwise intimidated by the others into volunteering to fit into their agenda by pretending to be in love with Linux, showering her with gifts, all the while planning on using her and two-timing her to boot. What is Sun's stated reason for wanting to get involved with "irrelevent" Linux, as Schwartz called it recently? The article explains that Sun feels Java and Linux go well together:
" . . .Schwartz emphasized its synergy with Linux. 'If you think of where Java and Linux are going, they tend to go hand in hand,' said Schwartz in a keynote today.'They all require the infrastructure that runs on the back of the network... Linux opens up the network and makes huge applications relevant,' he said, adding that this was good for Sun's business."
Hmm. Hand-in-hand with Sun? Thanks, but I think Linux has had enough going steady with self-absorbed, let's-exploit-Linux-to-bring-customers-to-proprietary-UNIX guys. If a business doesn't grasp the values of free software, they're not boyfriend material. First of all, any business that can't get its own customers without Linux to draw them into the tent is doomed.
Second, we all saw what happened with Linux' last toxic boyfriend, Caldera. That turned into a hand-in-hand walk into the sunset all right, with the boyfriend suddenly deciding to try to stuff Linux in the trunk so he could send the car 100 mph straight toward the edge of a cliff, and her with it. Happily, IBM heard her screams and ran over and started beating him up, although, truth be told, she had already popped the hood of the trunk herself with her handy GPL.
Linux may not have become scarred and cynical after that near-death experience or anything, but a narrow escape like that can make a girl more picky about boyfriends. It certainly should. If you remind Linux of her old boyfriend, she probably won't go out with you. At least, that's what her friends are hoping.
Sun reminds me of Caldera, the old Caldera, when it was first in love with Linux and making great plans for a future with her, except Sun is a lot less affectionate, he disses her in public, and he's got another girlfriend, Solaris, whom he really loves.
Sun likes Linux fine, as long as she lets herself be used and remembers her place. Or maybe it's worse. Maybe it's more like Heathcliff and his wife, sweet-talking her until she elopes with him, and then abusing her for the rest of her life, making her the scullery maid. Note this articlefrom last October on Sun's strategy:
"Sun's vision is that companies will start with Sun's Lintel boxes and, as their needs grow, they will migrate upwards to Solaris-SPARC without having to spend huge amounts on retraining. Thanks to Sun's work with the Gnome project, it can offer a common desktop across Linux and Solaris. This is very important since one of Microsoft's key selling points has always been the boast that it has a common GUI across all flavours of Windows (98/NT/2000/Me/XP). Linux application compatibility has existed in Solaris all along. Sun had held back from announcing Solaris 9 for Intel. Now, due to popular demand from users and insiders, Solaris 9 for Intel will be coming in a few months."
In March of 2003, a Sun spokesman in India was trash talking Linux:
"Anil Valluri, Director, Systems Engineering, Sun Microsystems, India says, 'Support is offered by a third party organization for break-fix maintenance. However, support for bug fixes, patch upgrades, and drivers needs to be handled by the customer organization directly, by downloading from the Web. Thus, the customer may not receive end-to-end support from the vendor. This puts a lot of doubt in the mind of an IT manager regarding the use of an open source OS on mission critical applications."
These three appear agreed on one thing: Linux must not go high-end, at all cost. Here, in August, Silicon.com reported the new Sun-SuSE partnership and on Sun's Mad Hatter plan:
"Sun's main business is selling servers, but it hopes also to profit from Linux on desktop computers, a market that's growing more popular. . . 'We want a compelling alternative to Microsoft,' Wettersten said."
In July, Silicon had an article on Sun's troubles:
"And even then there are question marks. Sun says it is embracing Linux but acts happier to be the owner of Solaris, casting doubt over users' peace of mind running the operating system in the face of SCO's claims. It also claims Linux is an 'edge play', while vendors such as Dell and IBM are positioning Linux as a high-end alternative to Unix and other OSes, running on clustered Intel boxes or mainframes."
Sun so far isn't saying it will indemnify its Linux customers the way it does for Solaris. Anyway, as MathFox noted in a comment, any immunity from being sued by SCO isn't going to protect you from being sued by Microsoft down the road, anyway, assuming they plan on slithering into in the water with the rest of the sharks eventually.
Sun CEO Scot McNealy recently said this about Linus' saying UNIX is dying:
"You can go back over 21 years, and we've been reading that exact quote about Unix. But in one sense, Linus is right. The operating system is going away; you don't write to the operating system anymore. You write to the Web services layer. You either write to [Microsoft's] .Net, which only runs on Windows, or you write to the Java Web services architecture, which runs on anything."
So, personally, I think he's just using Linux for as long as it's financially useful, to fight MS, his eternal quest, and to draw Solaris customers, by offering Linux until they are ready to move up to Solaris, and if the money thing doesn't work out with Linux, then he'll turn on her and dump her, just like Caldera/SCO did.
That's the thing about loving only money and not understanding that "cheaper and better" software isn't what it's really all about. The value of free software, of open source, is its values, not just its utility. Sun's inability to see that makes it like a superficial man who picks women just for their looks and hasn't a clue that her character or personality might be important too in a longterm relationship. That superficial motivation can only take a relationship so far.
I'm worried Linux might be a little confused, because of those gifts of software and the love letters Sun sent her, pledging his undying devotion to open source. Just like Caldera. It was still holding hands with Linux and trying to woo developers as recently as October of 2002, and look how that ended up.
Could somebody call Linux up and warn her, please. to watch out for this guy? I don't think he's good for her.