Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Open Source Business Conference - Part One

Headed to the Open Source Business Conference in Boston today where I hope to tell a story of open source from a Fortune 100 enterprise perspective. The conference will be packed with folks from various IT magazines including CIO, ComputerWorld and others seeking the soundbites. If I am truly successful in making a difference in the open source community, I might be able to get them to tell a story that is less frequently told...

Many magazines only tell the stories of commercial entities who use open source to derive profits, but rarely tell the story of corporations whose primary business isn't to sell software who give back to the community by providing valuable open source software. Maybe they will do some homework on enterprises such as Duke Energy who contributed an open source .NET framework to the community.

Maybe they are willing to tell the story of myself and peers who have contributed to countless open source projects such as Liferay, Virtual Token Descriptors, JUnit, Prevalyer and Asterisk? Maybe absolutely nothing will change and they will still tell the same old stories about the JBoss Group, GNU Linux and other remotely interesting commoditized pieces of software infrastructure.

I wonder if they would ever discuss real issues that enterprise are concerned with? We have all heard about many open source projects going closed source. Yes, when this happens another group could always create a fork to keep maintenance up but this doesn't really address the issue. Many enterprises pay real money for free software and would immediately run in the opposite direction towards proprietary software because they have no mechanism to support the projects themselves.

I suspect that others at the conference will be busy discussing intellectual property and innovation. This reminds me of the timeless question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, will it make a sound? The real question is what is the value of intellectual property if no one doesn't know of its existence?

Maybe someone should be having the real conversation about intellectual capital and how it is not in the exclusive domain of startups. I would argue that many startups are capable of laying a golden egg but the real value is locked in the walls of many large enterprises who own the goose that is capable of laying multiple golden eggs. I would even argue that there are more golden eggs waiting to be discovered in enterprises whose business model isn't about selling IT products and services.

I wonder if I should lose faith in the media, industry analysts and the community at large for only telling the story that is easier to tell vs the one that provides the most value...

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