Should IBM Open Source OS/2?

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Two years ago, the OS/2 World Foundation presented IBM with a petition signed by more than 11,600 people who wanted IBM to open source the operating system. IBM never responded. This week, The 451 Group's Matthew Aslett points out that the group recently sent a letter to Big Blue requesting a response to the petition. (And a quick peek at the OS/2 World Web site reveals that a second petition is now circulating, as well.)


Whether it makes sense for IBM to open source "old code" or whether IBM is even able to open source the code in question notwithstanding, Aslett says the company should dignify the petition with a response. Even if the response is no, IBM owes OS/2 World an answer. He says:

One thing that stands out to me is this comment from OS/2 World founder Kim Haverblad in Schindler's post: "Sadly, IBM was ignorant enough to not answer our first letter." That's a pretty damning indictment of a company that regularly talks up the value of community and the open source development process.

For background on the issue, Aslett points to Esther Schindler's post at CIO.com. Schindler, a certified OS/2 engineer who, by her own admission, has spent a significant amount of time and energy on the operating system, notes that open sourcing the OS may not be as simple as finding someone at IBM to say, "Sure, set it free!" She says:

Plus, the open-sourceable code would be messy and expensive to extract even if there were strong motivation. Real old-timers will recall that OS/2 1.0 was a joint effort between IBM and Microsoft. Who would want to revisit the old contracts to figure out what parts of OS/2 could be freed?