Open Source Experts Discuss Commercialization, Other Key Issues

Lora Bentley

InfoWorld's Open Source Business Conference begins Tuesday in San Francisco. To get attendees ready (and, I presume, to give those who aren't attending a taste of what they'll miss), InfoWorld senior editor Jason Snyder put together a "virtual roundtable" in which 11 participants discuss seven key issues in the open source movement.


The third topic, "The Cost of Commercialization," caught my eye -- because it was in the middle of the list, because commercialization is often a polarizing issue, or maybe a little of both. Here are a few snippets:


Hyperic CEO Javier Soltero tackled the question first, noting that commercialization of what is otherwise a free product does create challenges. Espcially, he said, when the company doing the commercializing is separate from the original product. But, the addition of commercial interests keeps the project on track with release goals, etc., so that it does not become a purely academic exercise.


MySQL VP Zach Urlocker says there are two classes of open source users, and you need to "serve the needs of both groups at the same time." Success comes in striking the delicate balance of community and commercial.


Open source veteran and OSI founder Bruce Perens pointed out:

A big problem facing many companies today is that they entirely depend on open source for their operations, and they haven't even begun to deal with that from a corporate policy perspective.

And Microsoft's Sam Ramji notes:

When [projects that have been developed in the commons] are commercialized, there is typically an uneven return of wealth from the commercializer to the original developers. This is currently causing some strain between the developers and the business people, but I think ultimately the industry will figure out some standards for fairness....

The opinions are as varied as the participants, which makes for an entertaining read. Check out the rest of the roundtable here


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