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IT Giants Accused of Exploiting Open Source

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the do-your-own-work dept.

Businesses 511

An anonymous reader writes "A top European Commission official has accused major IT players such as IBM, HP and Sun of using the open source community as mere subcontractors rather than encouraging them to develop independent commercial products. Jesús Villasante, head of software technologies at the commission, said: 'The open source community today [is a] subcontractor of American multinationals. Open source communities need to take themselves seriously and realise they have contribution to themselves and society. From the moment they realise they are part of the evolution of society and try to influence it, we will be moving in the right direction.'"

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The Inverse (5, Insightful)

Adrilla (830520) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692311)

But aren't they also helping Open Source by increasing it's popularity? They are huge companies that carry a lot of weight, and they can get people to adopt it who wouldn't have thought to before. Which can bring in more developers through increased recognition of the movement.

Re:The Inverse (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692427)

No. Open Source, being led by such un-charismatic, autistic, asexual fagots like Robert Stallman and Linux Torfland, will never be popular, except in the so-called "geek-community".

Let's face it:
- Linux is not ready for the desktop
- today, less servers are sold with Linux than with Windows Server Edition
- And did I mention that Linux is not ready for the desktop?

Re:The Inverse (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692431)

Who cares if they adopt it? Red Hat and the like maybe. Any software I develop that is going to be useful to IBM, I'm keeping to myself. Any software that is likely to be useful to some J. Random Person, or a community of interest that I happen to share, I have no problem making open source.

Re:The Inverse (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692601)

Hence the very reason for the GPL.

You can share your software with the world, but companies who modifiy it have to give that code back.

Everyone wins.

Re:The Inverse (4, Insightful)

ajs (35943) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692444)

Absolutely! Open source software is not about social change or politics or multinationals or even business. It's about scratching an itch and sharing the result. Huge companies like IBM or 15 year-old kids in Mexico can both do this, and have the same access to the tools of the trade. It's the ultimate fair playing field, and everyone gets something good out of it.

Re:The Inverse (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692457)

increasing it's popularity

"its".

Re:The Inverse (1)

Martigan80 (305400) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692530)

I agree with every word you have said, but one thing still burns though. As the article stated, open source programmers are being treat more a subcontractors. In the world of America big buisness loves the idea of cheaper resources, mainly the programmers.

Re:The Inverse (1)

Xoro (201854) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692605)

I'm confused about what you (and the author) mean by "being treated more as subcontractors".

It looks to me like big companies are mostly using free software in accordance with the licenses those developers chose at the time they released the software. They're being "treated" exactly how they asked to be treated.

If you're suggesting that's not what the developers really meant, I guess they might change those licenses in the future. But I suspect that it is what they really meant.

Also, I like cheap resources, too, and I'm just a desktop user.

Re:The Inverse (1)

propertyistheft (869873) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692562)

Yes they are. It's a delicate balance between higher profile (and more cash) for OS on the one hand and being swallowed up by the monster of mammon on the other. Sup with devil by all means, but be sure to use a long spoon!

Mary-Kate Olsen, dead at 19 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692316)

Truly a shame what drugs can do to a person... :(

Re:Mary-Kate Olsen, dead at 19 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692439)

Actually it was more likely to be drug prohibition that did it. I haven't read the story, but any so-called "drug death" usually owes more to the illegality of the substance than the substance itself ..... I have no doubt that people would end up being poisoned by hydrochloric acid in dodgy homemade salt and vinegar flavouring, if the Government banned potato crisps.

The real question is, why has her sister got a boy's name? Don't the priests doing the baptisms ever get tempted to dunk the parents' heads in the font and scream "NO! YOU CAN'T CALL YOUR DAUGHTER FUCKING ASHLEY! ASHLEY IS A BOY'S NAME! SHE'S A GIRL! LOOK! NO DICK! EITHER GIVE HER A GIRL'S NAME, OR TRADE HER IN FOR A BOY, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!"

Ashely is a girls name, you fag. (1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692469)

CREATION IS CUBIC, but
you are educated singularity
stupid by academic bastards.

Worth mentioning again. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692317)

1: Make free software.
2: ?
3: Profit!

Errmmm.... No. (1, Insightful)

torpor (458) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692322)

From the moment they realise they are part of the evolution of society and try to influence it, we will be moving in the right direction

Sorry, but no. The *real* moment OSS will be moving in the right direction, is when the OSS movement works out that source is nothing, operational hardware is everything, and getting that hardware into the hands of people who will use it is more important than any and all of the above.

OSS means Hardware Rules.

Re:Errmmm.... No. (1)

Sweetshark (696449) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692391)

OSS means Hardware Rules. No. Hardware is cheap. Service, administration and knowledge is not.

Re:Errmmm.... No. (1)

AllUsernamesAreGone (688381) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692438)

Hardware may be cheap, but it is still controlled and largely closed. So you may be able to go out and pick up a piece of hardware that you can be fairly confident an OSS OS will run on now to some degree, can you be be sure you will be able to do the same in 5 years, 10 years?

Software is only part of the equation, without the hardware it is nothing.

Hmph (4, Insightful)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692324)

I think someone is taking himself - and open source - too seriously.

People write code because they enjoy it.

99.9% of the time what they do has no meaningful impact on 99.9% of existance.

People who write code because they think they're going to change the world never do.

--
Toby

Toby the Spoiled Brat (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692359)

You have absolutely no idea what kind of bullshit I have to go through to earn a living. And my local "code writing" linux community where I live is a bunch of spoiled no-help morons.

Take that to your "economy."

Ever know any one who went to the hospital and left DEAD? Ever been ripped off by health insurance companies? Ever seen bogus doctors, bogus EVERYBODY? USA is way f-ed up.

LINUX? Oh yes. Well the jerks who exploit linux are better than the jerks who exploit Microsoft monopoly because in the end - the kids have the source code and can build their own.

Re:Toby the Spoiled Brat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692376)

This is because university is a mainstream cult now. You must go, or else. The kind of people that would never have had a technical job in the past, are now telling you what to do because they have the kind of degree required by .. the people who have the same degree.

Re:Toby the Spoiled Brat (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692392)

Wall? Meet head. Head, wall. Have fun you two.

KFG

Re:Toby the Spoiled Brat (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692404)

I'm sorry, but that's just utter crap. The reason people from a university get employed is because:

1) It shows they have the concentration to sit through several years of education, so there's less chance of them quitting within a few months

2) It shows they have learnt basic software engineering skills that many geeks do not learn by themselves, such as UML.

Re:Toby the Spoiled Brat (2, Insightful)

mad flyer (589291) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692524)

1) It shows they have the concentration to sit through several years of education, so there's less chance of them quitting within a few months.

Nice so they can safely be dead wood/office drone, they might even fit in a japanese company if they stop breathing

2) It shows they have learnt basic software engineering skills that many geeks do not learn by themselves, such as UML.

Yeah... it show they passed the test... not that they understood the questions

Re:Toby the Spoiled Brat (0, Flamebait)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692538)

they have learnt basic software engineering skills that many geeks do not learn by themselves, such as UML.
What, even people who graduated in dentistry?

Re:Toby the Spoiled Brat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692384)

You have absolutely no idea what kind of bullshit I have to go through to earn a living.

Maybe that's simply because you aren't very good at what you do.

Bah to your 'Hmph' (5, Insightful)

wurp (51446) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692395)

People who write code because they think they're going to change the world never do.

Richard Stallman might disagree with you.

Re:Bah to your 'Hmph' (4, Funny)

Throtex (708974) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692500)

Richard Stallman might disagree with you.

I'll take "How to know you're on the right track" for $1000, Alex.

Re:Doh to your Bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692513)

Doh Ray Mee Bah So Latte Doh

Yeah, Richard Stallman might disagree with me, too. But that is okay, because I often disagree with Richard Stallman....

Re:Hmph (-1, Flamebait)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692531)

The guy's a wanker, yah, let's move on.

the hand which feeds you... (4, Informative)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692327)

He seems to forget a lot of OS software gets coded today by people who get a check for it. If half of the devellopers on a big project are paid by corporations, is it that difficult that the project does what the corporations want?

Open Source Community Likes This (3, Insightful)

TuataraShoes (600303) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692328)

The OS community (and those who appreciate and respect it - like many on slashdot) seem to be pleased when there is some big name take-up on open source software.

When you write software for pleasure, you like others to use it.

When others make loads of money from it, the feeling is mixed.

Everyone for themself (4, Insightful)

Mattygfunk1 (596840) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692330)

Bullshit. Nobody is using anybody, and everybody is using everybody.

Everyone who contributes to open source has their own adjenda. Private individual programmers may just love using the community software, business may just love the low price tag. Who can complain when everyone (open) wins?

__
Laugh Daily funny free videos [laughdaily.com]

Re:Everyone for themself (1)

danheskett (178529) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692421)

I think the point is that some developers may feel cheated if someone comes along after you've been working on something for 5 years, re-package it, re-brand it, and sell it - with source of course - and make a pile of money. Especially if that "competes" with donationware style proft stream for the developers.

I can imagine how pissed I'd be if I were up all night coding a release, and then, suddenly, my commerical counterpart announces a new build, new features, and and an upgrade fee the next day!

Re:Everyone for themself (5, Interesting)

the_xaqster (877576) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692480)

....I'd be if I were up all night coding a release, and then, suddenly, my commerical counterpart announces a new build, new features, and and an upgrade fee the next day!


But what would stop you getting the sources, incorperating their improvements into your code, adding a new feature that people will want, but not enough people to justify the company developing it, and releasing it yourself, for free? Or even just taking the Open source code and releasing it for free, changing for support? Then the company is left changing for the same (or less featureful) product you are now giving away.

Open source cuts both ways. They can base their commercial app on your code, but you can base your code on their commercial app.

Swings and roundabouts really.

Re:Everyone for themself (3, Interesting)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692519)

That's a big black mark against the {three-clause} BSD licence. At least if you used the GPL, or a source-only BSD licence {i.e. not allowing binary distribution} then any "competing" product based on your code can never be made closed-source. You will have the advantage that anything they do, you also can do, and probably for less money than they want for it.

The BSD people are very aware of this, and work their collective behinds off to keep software free. But it's a trap for the unwary.

Remember! BSD = sharing is not theft, GPL = not sharing is theft.

Re:Everyone for themself (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692580)

I think the point is that some developers may feel cheated if someone comes along after you've been working on something for 5 years, re-package it, re-brand it, and sell it - with source of course - and make a pile of money.

In which case (sorry for stating the blindingly obvious here) perhaps those developers shouldn't release their code under a licence which explicitly allows this? Copyright exists for a reason.

What would Jesús do? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692331)

JESUS is working for the European Comission and flaming IBM for not supporting Open Source?

I...I honestly have no idea what kind of troll posts this will generate. Can we get back to the simple anti-Microsoft posts please? ; )

He's right, but it doesn't matter (3, Informative)

SimianOverlord (727643) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692332)

Big vendors may well presnt themselves as an open source "portal", saying "OK - you want open source; this is our IBM open source product..." but this is only slightly harmful now. I still believe the future development of open source is in the hands of individuals who are relatively uninfluenced by big business interests, focussing instead on the technology, and just making a better product. Plus, the open source community has this ingrained ethic about doing it yourself - the ability to fork at any time on a principled issue acts as a sort of safety valve.

I guess an analogy is two fish swimming in a stream - at the moment the shark of big business is swimming alongside the remora of open source in the same direction, but should things change, both will take their gained advantages from the arrangement and swim away in different directions once more.

However corporations package it, the community is strong to its principles and will not be subverted for capitalism. Contrary to what Villasante says, the open source community does not need to actively work to achieve social change - by its very nature any success it will accrue will do that job for it.

Re:He's right, but it doesn't matter (1)

Rockin' Az (315143) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692596)

However corporations package it, the community is strong to its principles and will not be subverted for capitalism.

OSS can't be subverted for capitalism for the simple reason that OSS is a product of capitalism. For OSS to exist as a mainstream system of production (as opposed to university/academic system) it requires two things; easy access to the internet; and easy access to computer hardware. With few exceptions both of these requirements are provided by the market. Change the market in either of these areas (e.g. massive price hikes in hardware or Internet access) and you will get a decreasing OSS.

OSS is changing the market and shifting the point of scarcity away from software (which was scarce largely through artificial means) to hardware and bandwidth, both of which are naturally scarce.

This does not mean that existing corporate interests (i.e. proprietary software producers) are not threatened by OSS, nor that they won't use measures (lobbying governments) to harm OSS development. It is important to distinguish between sectional interests within capitalism (or class fractions as Poulantzas describes it) and capitalism as a whole. It is also important to note that what is good for one sectional interest is not necessarily what is in the best interests of capitalism, or markets, as a whole.

If only neo-cons would understand that, then we might one day actually get effective capitalism, rather than b-grade pseudo-mercantilism. Where's Adam Smith when you need him?

Such broad generalizations as... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692333)

Business is moving in the (right-wrong, pick one) direction are no more useful than 'all lawyers suck'(bad example) or 'fish is good for everyone'.

The hand that feeds them (5, Insightful)

HaydnH (877214) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692334)

"The open source community today [is a] subcontractor of American multinationals."

To be fair, although the multinationals do have a lot to thank the OSS community for, I think the OSS community has a lot to thank the multinationals for in return. Take Open Office, where would that project be without Sun buying StarDivision in 1999 and open sourcing StarOffice 5.2 in 2000?

Personally I feel that the current relationship is symbiotic and works well. Sure in the future the OSS community should probably become less reliant on the multinationals, as long as they don't bite the hand that's fed them.

Re:The hand that feeds them (4, Interesting)

m50d (797211) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692386)

Openoffice was only opened up after KOffice had started. I think without OOo linux office suites would actually be in a better place - koffice is cleaner, less bloated, and better documented, and if (big if, I know, but still) all the effort that went into OOo went into it instead we would see more returns.

Re:The hand that feeds them (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692440)

That's happening anyway. No-one works on OOo except Sun employees (oh and 3 community dudes now and then). More people work on KOffice and other word processors. Of course, KOffice isn't a drop in replacement for Microsoft Office the way OOo is intended to be, and that means users of KOffice actually have to learn something and they don't like that.

Re:The hand that feeds them (2, Insightful)

HaydnH (877214) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692455)

Possibly - personally though I can't stand applications like KOffice, KPilot, rhn-applet etc etc that require either KDE/gnome (or their libs/devel libs)... why on earth would I want to tie an application to only users of kde/gnome or force people who only want to use one K' application to install tons of libs? OK with something as large as KOffice you may save enough space in the actual package that installing the libs would be irrelevant - but for smaller apps, a prime example being KPilot, why would you want to install 200MB of libs for a 1.5MB app?

At least if the effort had gone in to KOffice there might be a windows version by now I suppose. Not that I run windows, but for any Office project to suceed it's a vital part of the market.

Re:The hand that feeds them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692476)

why on earth would I want to tie an application to only users of kde/gnome

You can't have more than one set of widget libraries installed?

or force people who only want to use one K' application to install tons of libs?

What is the alternative? Every app reinventing the wheel and including their own widget set? How does that saves pace? That's one of the main reasons OpenOffice is as bloated as it is.

Re:The hand that feeds them (1)

DarkSarin (651985) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692497)

Rather than reply to the AC, I choose to reply to a real post...

Widget sets are something that should not be specific to a certain WM or app. Widgets should be a generic class of objects that can be hooked into by the app. That is, I think that both KDE and gnome should hook into a generic set of widget commands that an app can easily call without being tied to either.

This means that the user can have the wm of choice, but avoid the limitations of either in terms of applications. Of course, this would require cooperation--the shock!

The KDE runtime (1)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692482)

koffice is cleaner, less bloated, and better documented, and if (big if, I know, but still) all the effort that went into OOo went into it instead we would see more returns.

I might be tricking myself with this, but one of the reasons I tend to stay away from koffice is that I really don't like having to load all of he kde infrastructure underneath in order to actually load it. If I was using KDE in the first place I wouldn't care as much because that runtime environment would already be loaded. I actually use WindowMaker, however, because in comparison it's so fast with most simple tasks and I can get away from all of the extra stuff that tends to be loaded underneath.

In effect, I spend a lot of time looking for lightweight alternatives to run in WindowMaker rather than something that's going to (often unnecessarily) load the entire KDE runtime when I open it, not to mention requiring a truckload of KDE dependencies to simply install it. OpenOffice isn't exactly lightweight, but using it is still consistent with the habit of not wanting to load the KDE runtime.

I suggested I might be tricking myself, because I don't know how the generic KDE runtime stuff compares with whatever it is that OpenOffice loads internally on its own. I'd be interested to see a more formalised comparison for all of us who steer away from KDE unless we really have to use it.

Re:The KDE runtime (1)

afd8856 (700296) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692528)

So I understand that you're not using K3b, amarok, kopete, konqueror, kate, quanta or any other good kde app because you want to be stuck with Xterm?

Re:The KDE runtime (1)

the_xaqster (877576) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692613)

I am not using any of those. I don't have a CD burner in this box, so no need for K3b. I use Enlightenment, Firefox, Amsn, Vim, Xmms, etc, etc.

Not using KDE apps does not mean being stuck with Xterm. I could also use Gnome apps if I want to stay away from KDE apps...

P.S, I don't use Xterm, I use Eterm.

I HATE KWord (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692503)

Openoffice was only opened up after KOffice had started. I think without OOo linux office suites would actually be in a better place - koffice is cleaner, less bloated, and better documented

KOffice- or more specifically, KWord- crashed horribly on the few occasions I tried to use it (circa early 2002).

To be fair, this may have been a beta version, but I doubt it. And it happened when I was changing the font on a very basic document; the kind of bug you'd think would have been caught. Irritating as heck, especially 15 minutes before an assignment deadline.

I've avoided KOffice like the plague ever since. If OOo hadn't been available, I'd probably be rebooting into Windows to use MS Office a lot more often.

I wasn't particularly impressed with KWord's look-and-feel either; it felt slightly cheap for some reason. OTOH, that's a criticism I'd also apply to Windows XP; how on *earth* did MS end up designing something so toy-like and yet unprofessional-looking next to the Apple UI?

Re:The hand that feeds them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692520)

Openoffice was only opened up after KOffice had started.

Nonsense. That was decided right after StarOffice had been taken over.

Re:The hand that feeds them (1)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692400)

If open office hadn't been open sourced, more effort probably would have gone into gnumeric and abiword and we would be at probably a similar level of functionality and similar level of cross platform capability.

LetterRip

basically for the programmer... (2, Insightful)

Uzull (16705) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692336)

it boils down to "code for food, shelter, amusement"... Those open source programmers, helpers do it to earn a living, doing what they like to do, and in return get money, which allows them to live where they want to. The return for multi's is working software done by motivated workers.
The side effect is that the code is also usable by third parties, even competitors (remember who ships samba with their unix products, or who ships linux with their hardware).

Public interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692341)

If open source is a public interest thing, the correct way of sponsoring public things is with taxes.
So Politicians have the right tool to drive open source if they want.

Maybe I'm missing something, but... (2, Interesting)

October_30th (531777) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692342)

...why on earth does he expect IBM, HP or Sun to encourage development of independent commercial software products - products that would compete with those offered by the IBM, for instance?

meh (5, Funny)

metricmusic (766303) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692351)

Don't believe him. He's trying to turn us against IBM. Look at what happened to Anakin.

Free labour. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692353)

Subcontractors? Since when are subcontractors usually not paid? Open source developers are free labour, simply put.

Oversimplifying the argument (1)

vevva (693964) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692363)

The article definitely oversimplifies the point. Of course there are instances of the commercial players abusing the open source community, but likewise there are also plenty of examples of where the relationship really works to the benefit of the community.

Surely each open-source commercial tie-up needs to be evaluated on its individual merits.

fedora core - redhat enterprise linux (2, Interesting)

matt me (850665) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692368)

I think Red Hat's arrangement with Fedora Core is pretty good. Fedora Core - great community operating system. Every other year Red Hat stick it in a box, say ooh it's certified and offer support, and sell it.

Leverage versus Use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692370)

These corporations are leveraging open source -- utilizing it to more cost effectively deliver solutions that their customers want. They are in the business of making money and open source reduces the cost of their peoducts and, since it is usually more stable, reduces the cost of support.


Each of those corporations has made major contributions to open source. If they were simply "using" it, they would not have made these contributions and investments. For example, the first cross-platform port and first 64-bit port of the kernel were by HP (DEC at the time). IBM has released Eclipse and made major contributions to both the kernel and multiple projects.


Does this individual have an agenda? Is he anti-American? Is this an excuse to counter those that oppose Microsoft as it is an American company? In other words they should be able to use Microsoft and open source equally as both are controled by American companies?

Influencing society, eh? (2, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692373)

Gee. If only Stallman had thought of it that way.

KFG

Its not exploitation... (2, Insightful)

renjipanicker (697704) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692387)

... as long as the giants don't get exclusive ownership of the code. And if the the code was developed with their funding and remains in the public domain, it is they who are getting "exploited".

Re:Its not exploitation... (1)

StateOfTheUnion (762194) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692611)

I agree . . . one could argue that the open source community is exploitng the multinationals by using the multinationals to market and distribute their products. As the product grows in popularity more people become attracted to the open source movement and contribute . . . If anything, the multinationals increase the popularity and success of the OS movement.

How much popular press did Linux receive when IBM started offering Linux based solutions and investing in other open source projects? Same goes fror Sun and Open Office . . . and a number of other solutions form GIMP to Apache.

I can only imagine that this bureaucrat can't stand the fact that a seemingly chaotic melange of developers and volunteers can produce world class software. I'm sure that he would prefer to take it over, straitjacket it with regulations and completely cripple the movement . . . but what can you expect? He's a bureaucrat . . .

Not again (1)

tezbobobo (879983) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692398)

Is anyone else sick of hearing about SCO. (That was a lame attempt at a joke. I did RTFA.)

that's the way it's supposed to work (1)

cahiha (873942) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692407)

People get paid by someone to develop open source software to solve a problem, and then the software is available to everybody. Subcontracting from companies like IBM to open source development houses is probably the best business model for open source. There is nothing wrong with that--it's the way it's supposed to work.

Another common arrangement is where a company like IBM employs the open source developers directly.

Companies that independently develop open source "products" generally are the weakest from the point of view of business.

I think Villasante's problem is neatly summed up in this statement:
Open source is a complete mess -- many people do lots of different things. There's total confusion today," Villasante said.

Villasante seems to think of "open source" as a kind of industry sector or group of companies. But it is just a way of licensing software, and open source will continue to be a "complete mess" in the sense of not having a single business model. But among business models, subcontracting is one of the best for open source firms.

In different words, the people who are confused is the EU politicians and administrators. But what else is new?

Re:that's the way it's supposed to work (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692546)

The guy's an idiot. Everyone else on the panel felt embarassed and hoped he'd shut up as quickly as possible. Analysing anything he says is a waste of time. But hey, so is posting on Slashdot.

Here is my analysis of open source... (4, Informative)

pieterh (196118) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692410)

(Taken from a presentation I made explaining open source as a development model for large businesses)...

A common misconception about open source is that because it is "free" it is somehow a charity operation where programmers work bene-vola because they want "to contribute".

This is, however, wrong. When Adam Smith said: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest", he was accurately describing a world in which self-interest creates mutually-beneficial structures.

Open source contributors are attracted for different reasons, depending on how far they understand and identify with the technology at hand. We can identify the self-interest of each role, while seeing that the overall structure serves everyone:

* "Users" will evangelise (seeking security in the company of others using the same technology).

* "Power users" will help others who have problems (seeking the kudos that comes from helping others).

* "Pundits" will discuss the technology in public forums (seeking the fame that comes from being able to accurately identify trends and future winners).

* "Insiders" will take on parts of the testing process (seeking better familiarity with a technology that may become an important part of their skill set).

* "Players" will delve into the technology itself, taking on smaller roles in the process (seeking the kudos and fame that can come from being on a winning team).

* "Key players" will take on major roles in the project (seeking to impose their ideas, turn a small project into a major success, or otherwise earn a global reputation).

* "Patrons" will provide financial support to the project (looking to sell services, often to the users, that require the technology to succeed and be widely used).

The naive view of open source focuses only on the players, ignoring the wider economy of interests. A successful open source project must attract and support all these classes of people (and others, such as the "troll", who vocally attacks the project in public forums, thus stiffening the resolve of the users and pundits who defend it).

Thus we can understand the needs of each role:

* Users need a pleasant and impressive product so they can feel proud about showing it to others.

* Power users need forums and mailing lists where they can answer questions.

* Pundits need pre-packaged press releases, insider tips, and the occasional free lunch. Some controversy also helps.

* Insiders need regular releases, frequent improvements, and forums where they can propose ideas for the project.

* Players need extension frameworks where they can write their (often sub-standard) code without affecting the primary project.

* Key players need badges of membership, and access to the right tools and support.

* Patrons need a high-quality and stable product that supports their services and additional products.

The only people working full time, and usually professionally, on an open source project are the key players. All the others will take part in the project as a side-effect of their on-going work or hobbies.

While a traditional software company must pay everyone in this economy except the users, an open source economy must only pay the key players, who make up perhaps 2-5% of the total. Further, the key players will work for significantly less than the market rate, since they also derive a real benefit from working on successful projects, which I call the open source "payload". The most important part of a future programmer's CV is the section titled "Open Source Projects". This is the payload. It translates directly into dollars, proportional to the impact and importance of the open source projects involved.

When compensation plus payload does not cover the cost of working on a project (in terms of loss of compensation for alternative work), the key player will suffer "burnout" after 12-18 months, more or less depending on the person's tenacity.

Go figure (1, Flamebait)

1000101 (584896) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692411)

"The open source community today [is a] subcontractor of American multinationals"
Big corporations getting free labor. Who would have thought they would take advantage of that? The CEOs, CTOs, etc. must be laughting their way to the bank when they see how many people are willing to do their work for free.

Re:Go figure (1)

flood6 (852877) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692551)

I partly agree with this. Certainly, who would be surprised by businesses taking advantage of cheap or free assets like the code the OSS community produces? Companies are there to make money, they are going to find the shortest distance between their bank and their clients' wallets; if they don't their competitors will.

Further, who would be surprised to learn that the companies that benefit from these F/OSS projects try to steer them in the direction most advantageous for them? The businessman/owner/investor who isn't assertive to some degree won't last long.

But companies mentioned in TFA can't just tell Jack Crack in his basement where he should focus his efforts in his code. He'll work on what he finds interesting or those features he needs. The companies gain influence in the direction of the projects by hiring developers and otherwise supporting the project (hardware donations, bandwidth, cash, facilities, etc.).

These companies are not getting something for nothing; they're getting something for cheap. Developers and users also benefit.

Looking back over this, I guess pretty much just summed up how corporate-sponsored OSS projects work - a summary the parent nor anyone else on /. needs. But it seems like an obviously balanced system that TFA just doesn't seem to get.

I've never heard of JesÃs Villasante before, but I'm willing to admit that he likely knows more about this stuff than I do. He just did a very poor job of making his point. Or the author of TFA just did a bad job of relaying it.

Re:Go figure (1)

ctr2sprt (574731) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692579)

So? IBM is making money off stuff like Linux. Big deal. I'm saving a ton of money from Linux. If IBM wants to pay some programmers to make Linux better - so that IBM can make more money off it - good for them. The net result is that I save even more money by using Linux. Those who want big-name backing for their software safe money too, just not as much, and they're happy too. Everyone wins. It seems like an ideal situation.

I rather suspect that this is more about a European distate for "American multinationals" than anything else. Am I overly sensitive, or does that phrase read like a curse word?

In other news (1)

fr0dicus (641320) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692415)

Bears shit in the woods, the Pope wears a funny hat, and in Soviet Russia, Open Source Exploits IT Giants!

I believe the article 100% (4, Funny)

ian rogers (760349) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692425)

What, you expect me to call Jesus a liar?

ps - funny, not troll.

I wouldn't worry about it (1)

Y-Crate (540566) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692435)

If anything, commercial backing helps keep projects focused. One of the great things about OSS is that anyone can start a project, however far too often you end up with 10 separate understaffed projects all working on the same goal and in many cases the differences could be bridged, but everyone wants things done absolutely their way. In the end, development drags on, everything takes longer than it should and the product suffers.

When you have a abundant resources and effective project management things can often turn out better in the end. The community loses nothing and everybody wins. The corporation receives a top-quality product in a timely fashion and the community receives some excellent source. OSS is further legitimized in the corporate world - which is absolutely necessary in getting anyone to even consider abandoning Microsoft - and more OSS programmers get jobs where what they do during the day helps the side-projects they work on in the evening.

Friends (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692441)

Kind of funny stance when you think of The Commission's push for software patents.

oh dear... (5, Insightful)

ladget (888292) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692447)

The European Commissions worries about the Open Source Community? Stop software patents and we are fine!

Beurocratic Nonsense (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692454)

Read the whole article and it becomes quite clear what Villasante's intentions are.

"Villasante used his keynote speech earlier in the day to express concerns about the European software industry."

"What I think is that Europe doesn't have a software industry today -- the only one we have today is in America. In the future we may have China or India. We should decide if we will have a European software industry in the future," he said.

"Open source is a complete mess -- many people do lots of different things. There's total confusion today," Villasante said.

Villasante is interested in exploiting the open source software community to weaken the non-EU software companies. His stated goal is to create a European Software industry. He can't just create one out of nothing, but he can begin spreading the idea that big evil companies are exploiting poor programmers all across the world. Once he's sold that, he'll look around and ask rhetorically, "What should we do?... why... I think we need to legislate to protect the poor unorganized software developers from these evil corporations!" Legislation to "protect" open source will have the opposite impact. This is pure buerocratic rhetoric.

Re:Beurocratic Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692543)

You are spot on. This is NOT about open source at all. This IS, in Villasante's view anyway, all about a lack of a "commercially" viable European software industry.

If the FUD being spouted by this buerocrat doesn't work in separating the OS "contractors" from "big evil companies" then there may be a push to develop an EU state supported industry (like Airbus) that uses these same OS "contractors" to build that viable European software industry.

I don't agree with Villasante's original premise in any case.

Getting sick of European leaders trashing America (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692456)

If we make software for commercial reasons, it is evil. If we fund open source, it is evil.

Re:Getting sick of European leaders trashing Ameri (3, Interesting)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692564)

I'm getting sick of Americans trashing America.

I'm also getting sick of people on Slashdot trashing America.

I'm also sick of people on Slashdot trashing Slashdot (figure that one out).

There really is nothing quite like sitting at dinner with an American girl explaining to her dining companions, all or almost all American, what a bunch of heathens we are, and how much we could learn from those overseas. What really bothers me is that this is intended to somehow exempt them from judgement. Americans explaining how dumb their countrymen are really do not sound any more intelligent for having done so.

Re:Getting sick of European leaders trashing Ameri (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692586)

He's not trashing America, he's not even trashing American companies, he's trashing *companies*.

WTF?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692458)

And software patents will make things better for OSS exactly how?

Two different articles? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692461)

Check this out (cache) [google.com] , it's the same article title but the cache shows a different outcome. Did IBM pay off someone at ZDNet to re-write it?

Not all of us (1)

heikkile (111814) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692465)

The open source community today [is a] subcontractor of American multinationals

Not all of us - I get paid to write (mostly) open source software by a small Danish company. Although it is "multinational" too - we have one man in England and two in USA.

What about Novell? (1)

nberardi (199555) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692478)

It's funny he didn't mention the likes of Novell, which is doing the same thing. It even setup Novell Forge to get people to write software for their SuSE OS with Mono. Granted a couple cool projects have come out of it, however if you are going to throw stones at a couple companies you have throw stones at them all.

This some more like America bashing than a ligitimate claim.

We have to work like this. (2, Informative)

MartinG (52587) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692479)

Nowadays we often _have_ to be "mere subcontractors" because of the ever looming threat of software patents. If the commission wants us to be more independent then create the legal framework to allow and and stop pushing for software patents.

I don't know who in the EC wrote the directive but it certainly does NOT encourage open source developers to become more indepentent. It scares developers into only developing under the protection of their feudal lord (ie, a large company who can afford and is interested in wasting money on patents and patent litigation)

Hypocrisy (1)

lheal (86013) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692489)

We know we're being used. We like being used. It brings us fame and glory and the respect of our peers.

[irony]

I know: I think all those people working for non-profits or for the European Commission should instead turn their efforts toward running a business.

After all, those evil business people are just using the Red Cross, the universities, and the governments of the world.

[/irony]

Sure, open source has impact; in another way... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692492)

Or is it easily ignored that other big companies have also started along the path of sharing the code and providing people with a free operating system and only making money on support ?

My best example is Sun [sun.com] with their Solaris OS [sun.com] . Another example is their OpenSolaris [opensolaris.org] approach.

Now, I only know of these two from mind because I happen to like Solaris. But there is more; like Microsoft [microsoft.com] which is considering to open some of its code.

And all of this has been set in motion by the Open Source idea, and the way its being promoted (like Linux, *BSD, etc.).

"Open source is a complete mess -- many people do lots of different things. There's total confusion today," Villasante said.

But isn't that also just the beauty of it ?

Oh, Good ... (whew) ... (1)

krygny (473134) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692499)

For a while there, I almost thought we were going to run out of opinions about what the open source community is, or should be. Boy, was *THAT* close.

Bogus Ideological Nonsense (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692514)

>> "From the moment they realise they are part of the evolution of society and try to influence it, we will be moving in the right direction."

A lot of ideological assumptions are in that statement, which not everyone shares. Such as: corporations are inherently bad; small is always better than big; etc., etc.

Whatever relationship exists between open source developers and corporations is there because those open source developers want it to be there. Have any developers been conscripted to labor for dorporations? Have they been abducted off the street and tied to their desks?

Sometimes I think these people believe the Industrial Revolution was a mistiake, that we'd all be happier living in little stone huts in little villages, toiling in the fields and milking the cows, all the while smiling appreciatively at all the green grass. Of course, they'd be in charge because they know best. OR, so they keep telling us.

Take it from a bureaucrat (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12692529)

EU bureaucrats know it best. They know what the "right direction" is, so they certainly can tell who needs to do what so "we" move in the right direction. One more reason why the US leads in and the EU has 'authorities' talking about technology.

Socialist vs. Capitalist Temperment (2, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692541)

Suppose some guy is laboring in a factory making widgets; selling the widgets is making the factory owner rich but the people who actually make them are struggling economically.

Let's leave aside the fact that this paradigm has always been a crappy one. You can't look at this situation in isolation. It makes a difference for example what the laws are and who, in practice, gets to make them. It makes a difference what the labor and widget markets are like, and whether the skills needed to compete really are commodity skills. It makes a difference how the boss treats the workers in general.

Leaving aside the fact that such a paradigm pretty much leads to pointless arguments based on incompatible assumptions, the the fact that it does incite these arguments is instructive. How you react to it depends on whether you are socialist in temperment or capitalist.

The Socialist temperment in its extreme form automatically looks for an fixates on anything smacking of inequity. The Capitalist temperment is quick to dismiss the possiblity that inequity can exist; any economic transaction is in their view tautologically fair.

Breaking the Code (3, Interesting)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692545)

From TFA:

He Said:

"Open source communities need to take themselves seriously and realise they have contribution to themselves and society.
He Meant:
Open source coders need to form startups which can be bought up and crushed.
He Said:
From the moment they realise they are part of the evolution of society and try to influence it, we will be moving in the right direction
He Meant:
Open source communities have realised they are a part of the evolution of society and are influencing it but not in a direction that my paymasters find profitable
He Said:
Companies are using the potential of communities as subcontractors -- the open source community today [is a] subcontractor of American multinationals
He Meant:
Maybe if I can make them feel as if they are losing out they'll all get discouraged and do something else.
He Said:
What I think is that Europe doesn't have a software industry today
He Meant:
And it isn't going to have one tomorrow either if I have any say in the matter.
He Said:
Open source is a complete mess -- many people do lots of different things. There's total confusion today
He Meant
I really, really really don't get this open source thing. Really, I'm a clue free zone.

Or am attributing to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity?

The guy is clearly a muppet (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692557)

People write open source software for a number of reasons, the best being that they *need* that particular bit of kit for what they do.

So what if someone else makes billions out of it as well, good luck to them, that just increases the popularity and encourages others to invest, look at, support and contribute, all of which help the original author do what he does.

It also encourages others to write software in a similar manner, all of a sudden you have entire operating environments of free software, from the ground to the sky which the original author can use. Everyone who contributes to free software gets more out of it than they put in, who cares if others also get everything free as well, copying information costs bugger all.

Perhaps (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692565)

Perhaps it's just that big companies apparently seem to donate code that independant Open-Source developers enjoy working on? Surely it must be since otherwise, those independant coders simply would not work on the code.

I actually read the article, and I agree with him (4, Informative)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692567)

I actually went and read the article, and (surprise, surprise), Villasante is really not saying what Slashdot reports that he's saying.

If you read the entire article, he's not specifically complaining that corporations are abusing the free coding of open source. What he is saying is that the corporations who release open source are also very responsible for lobbying for a lot of things that are later likely to inhibit open source development in the future. His working example is the European intellectual property legislation, that would ultimately inhibit open source in the wider view but is still being campaigned for by the likes of IBM and Sun.

His point is that open source is the future of the software industry for Europe, yet by putting these laws in place that will give more power to the multi-national corportions, Europe is inhibiting its own future software industry.

He's suggesting that open source developers are happily working with these corporations at ground level, but the same organisations might ultimately lead to a less productive open source model. This is what he means about the open source communities not taking himself seriously.

I'm inclined to agree with him in many respects. Being able to develop in conjunction with businesses is a win-win scenario in terms of actually getting software developed, but we shouldn't necessarily ignore what else these businesses are doing just because they're cooperating in one aspect.

"Open source is a complete mess" (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692572)

Yes, and that is the strength of it. "Many people do lots of different things". Zillions of ideas are tried out, the vast majority fails, a few bring forward the state of the art. It is evolution in action. It is how the capitalist market is supposed to work, except when we let it be subverted by private monopolies.

Not much exploiting going on (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692590)

Open Source is like a special kind of bank account, where every investor receives an amount of interest dependent on the total amount ever deposited by all investors {even if since withdrawn}.

If some company using, say, exim for their e-mail servers find they need to make an improvement to exim, then every exim user can potentially benefit from that improvement -- and, just as importantly, nobody can ever undo that improvement.

Or to put it another way: When you light an unlit candle from a lit one, the room does not get any darker.

Almost all the "old" rules of economics -- and the political theories which followed on from them, including Capitalism and Marxism -- were written in an Age of Scarcity, where the demand for goods outstripped supply. As the supply of certain goods is beginning to exceed the demand, we are moving out of the Age of Scarcity and into an Age of Plenty. New rules will have to be written to deal with this. Simply creating artificial scarcity has already been shown not to work .....

That's one of the strengths (1)

Tyrell Hawthorne (13562) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692594)

"Open source is a complete mess -- many people do lots of different things. There's total confusion today," Villasante said.


I see this as one of the strengths of open source. Lots of people are doing lots of different things. There isn't a plan that everyone's following. That's how nature works, and that's how open source works. And it seems to work just splendidly in both cases.

Yes, so what? (2, Informative)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692595)

Yes, the big companies are using open-source programmers as sub=contractors, but they are also paying them. And I don't mean the ones that get put on payroll, I mean each and every one. However, they aren't all made in money, some are paid in "intellectual property". (Yes, I hate the IP arguments as much as any of you, but I'm looking at this from the viewpoint of the big companies.)

If I hire you as a sub-contractor, what you write isn't your property, it's mine. If, OTOH, you are an open-source programer, then what you write is shared by you and me. And if, as is normally the case, the code is made publicly available, it could be considered a charitable contribution, just as if you requested that some or all of your paychecks be sent to UNICEF or something.

Admittedly, current accounting practices aren't set up to handle these types of values transfers, but that doesn't mean that they aren't occurring.

"A top European Commission official..." (1)

lowieken (522530) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692597)

"A top European Commission official..." Wait a minute... This is the same commission that hands the IT multinationals the patent guns to kill innovativion in SMEs and free software, right? "IT giants exploiting open source" is a good thing. It helps grow the free software ecosystem. No slavery involved, just people doing what pleases them. Nothing "uneuropean, controlled by US multinationals" here.

A matter of participation (3, Insightful)

bhima (46039) | more than 9 years ago | (#12692599)

OK, I actually read the article and he's got some good points. However the whole reason that these companies have a lot of sway with the open source community is that they are actively participating within it! I agree with him that the open source community could use some added independence and the solution is simple: the EU should increase their participation within open source community!
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