July 2009


Zack blogged that someone working at a large incumbent vendor is less likely to disrupt a business.  He writes:

“And one thing I’ve noticed is that the more time someone has spent working for one of the “incumbent” large players in an industry, the less likely they will be able to disrupt that business. At least in the open source world, it seems that the most successful products and companies have come from people with little exposure to the traditional way of operating.”

And in referring to Linux and Linus Torvalds, Zack writes:

“Heck, IBM couldn’t figure out how to compete with Microsoft, yet a university kid out of Helsinki created the fastest-growing server platform ever.”

I have to disagree with Zack.

The operating system that kid from Helsinki developed would be nowhere close to where it is today if not for industry veterans at IBM, HP, Dell, Intel and other companies also deciding to disrupt the industry.  At IBM, the decision to get behind Linux was supported by many seasoned executives.  One of those executives, Robert LeBlanc, had something like 20 years at IBM when he headed IBM’s Linux play in the early days.  I wasn’t there, but I can only imagine the heated discussions that took place when Robert and team suggested IBM disrupt the market and itself by getting behind a competitor to IBM AIX.  And here we are a decade later with IBM’s Linux and AIX revenues doing quite well, and very likely better than if we hadn’t supported Linux.

I recall the situation when we were trying to make the business case to buy Gluecode and add an open source-based application server to the IBM WebSphere family.  Considering we had the #1 market share leading application server product at the time, this was a disruptive move.  And yet, the initial idea and final decision came from within IBM’s walls.  To be fair, some folks questioned the acquisition case.  But every executive we needed to get approval from understood why this disruption was necessary.  And here we are today with WebSphere growing at a very healthy rate even in this economy.

But why look at IBM alone?  Look at the folks behind Alfresco, most of who were leaders at Documentum, Business Objects and other ECM vendors.  Look at the folks leading Red Hat and JBoss today, many of whom worked at IBM, Dell, HP, Sun and Oracle.  Or look at SpringSource management, whose resumes read like a laundry list of middleware vendors.

Far from “exposure to the traditional way of operating” hindering one’s ability to disrupt an industry, this history provides the insight that helps convert a disruptive idea into a compelling business.

I do agree with Zack on the following point:

“Maybe you need to have different wiring to disrupt a business”

Yes, you need different wiring.  But that has nothing to do with your employment history.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

The recent news that the Google Voice iPhone application has been blocked from the iTunes App Store has created quite the stir.

Readers are somewhat correct to suggest that this move is more likely driven by AT&T than by Apple itself.  However, keep in mind that Google Voice aims to insulate the user experience from the underlying phone.  While the iPhone is much more than a phone, if Google is successful in owning the phone-related experience on the iPhone, Apple loses a core value proposition of the device.  This is why I don’t buy the fact that AT&T is wholly to blame for the Apple decision.  I can’t understand how Apple doesn’t have the bargaining position versus AT&T to act on behalf of Apple customers.  Apple does.  This decision helps protect AT&T’s and Apple’s value proposition to users.  Apple acted out of self interest.  I can’t blame them since Apple is not a charity.  But Apple users, and others, should take note and adjust their purchase behavior and legal oversight accordingly, if at all.

Apple pulled Google Voice-enabled applications from the App Store because they “duplicate features that come with the iPhone”.  The fact that Apple can limit the types of applications available to iPod/iPhone users on the basis of duplicate features that Apple provides or will provide in the future, GPS navigation an example of the latter, is mind boggling.  Can you imagine Microsoft not allowing Firefox, Opera or Safari on Windows computers citing the fact that these products duplicate features that come with Windows? Say what you will about Microsoft’s competitive practices, but excluding an application on the basis of providing a similar capability seems awkward in the software industry where there are 42 different ways of achieving anything.

The fact that Apple owns the platform gives it a leg up on any third party applications that may be available before or after Apple decides to add similar functionality.  If this isn’t enough to win versus the third party application, then the Apple product/feature deserves to lose out to the third party application.

To be fair, I find it equally surprising that the RIM BlackBerry App World doesn’t include applications such as Google Maps for Blackberry.  Google Maps is much easier to use than RIM’s BlackBerry Maps.  But since I can get the application directly from m.google.com and there are no limitations on what I can install on my BlackBerry, I don’t much care about the absence of Google Maps from BlackBerry App World.  Since there is only one legal way to install applications to the iPod/iPhone, it really does matter when Apple restricts the applications a user is able to download and use.

Where is the government oversight of Apple’s App Store and iPod/iPhone application development practices?  I care far less about IE integration with Windows than what applications I can run on my phone. My BlackBerry phone has quickly becoming the device I can’t live without; my laptop is well behind my Tivo/PVR.

PS: I don’t own an Apple product, but my wife loves her MBP and iPod Touch, both of which I play with from time to time.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PPS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Intuit’s sponsored open source community at code.intuit.com once again shows a commercial software vendor using open source to drive more business and increase the stickiness of its platform.

We were told stories of the day that open source would “win” the mythical “us vs. them” battle, and commercial software vendors would simply open source their products or face extinction.  Reality has veered heavily from that path.

Intuit is another in a string of vendors that are skillfully using open source around its closed-source product platform.  Intuit is embracing open source in a way that makes business sense for its shareholders and ecosystem.

Intuit is not open sourcing its core products.  Why would they?  Open source is great for building a large user base and vibrant ecosystem.  Intuit has both of these elements already.  Rather, Intuit’s open source play is to make it easier for its ecosystem to build solutions on Intuit’s partner platform.  I suspect this goal could have been achieved if Intuit released the code under a closed source license.  What percentage of Intuit’s partners license their own offering under an open source license?  A very small percentage I suspect.  However, by using an open source license, Intuit reduces a potential issue for their partners that do sell open source products on top of Intuit’s platform.  Intuit also makes it easier for their partners to customize the code for their own purposes, something that partners are likely to do.  Lastly, the open source license encourages Intuit’s ecosystem to contribute their own components and thereby helps raise all boats.  And all this without having to open source Intuit’s core products.  Seems like a win-win to me.

BTW, I can’t understand why Intuit chose to license the initial code drops under the CPL, especially since the OSI recently moved the CPL to inactive.  The only explanation is that Intuit had selected the CPL before the OSI announcement, and didn’t want to spend the time or resources required to make a switch away from the CPL, which could have held back today’s launch.

Kudos to the Redmonk guys, Coté specifically, for helping Intuit do right by its ecosystem and investors.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

It’s Friday, so maybe I shouldn’t worry too much about this.  But Dana’s post based on Ashlee Vance’s post about Open Source for America (OSA) is off the mark.

Dana takes Vance to task for one line in the roughly 425 word story.  Anyone that’s read Vance in the past knows that “…here come the open-source zealots” is, well, a sensational sounding statement, but nothing more.  Vance teamed up with open source “zealots” (used in the positive sense of the word) Dave Rosenberg and Matt Asay for Open Season podcasts.  So, Vance is hardly a person I’d consider anti-open source.

Outside of the lead in, the rest of Vance’s post makes no disparaging remarks about open source or the OSA.  And funny enough, far from the OSA being a collection of folks that have been, are or could be considered zealots, it’s about one thing, business.  These vendors joined the OSA because it’s how business apparently gets done with the government, through the help of lobbyists.

So if anyone is concerned about an “attack on open source”, it’s not coming from the likes of Vance, but the uneasy balance between vendor interests and “community” wishes for freedom.  Keep in mind that many of the vendors that have signed up with the OSA have a proprietary product that they are selling.  This doesn’t go over well with “the community”.  But life is all about shades of gray, isn’t it.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Microsoft has responded to claims that their Linux Integration Components (LIC) were only contributed under the GPLv2 after being out of compliance with the GPL in the first place.

It’s important to note that LIC was pre-existing code available from Microsoft.  The version I downloaded only supported Novel SUSE but it seems Red Hat Enterprise Linux was supported also.  Until a few days ago, this code was not completely under the GPLv2.  How much was, and whether GPLv2 and non-GPLv2 code was combined in a manner that violates the GPLv2 is at the root of this story.

A well-known Linux contributor, Stephen Hemminger found the LIC prior to its contribution under the GPLv2.  He writes:

“…but on closer examination there was a problem. The driver had both open-source components which were under GPL, and statically linked to several binary parts. The GPL does not permit mixing of closed and open source parts, so this was an obvious violation of the license. Rather than creating noise, my goal was to resolve the problem, so I turned to Greg Kroah-Hartman.”

Steve’s post resulted in Greg Kroah-Hartman (aka Greg K-H), the Linux kernel maintainer who accepted the Microsoft code, updating his post about the Microsoft GPLv2 contribution:

“Steve gives a little more of the backstory of what caused me to start talking to Microsoft in the first place.”

Microsoft’s Sam Ramji posted today:

“Microsoft’s decision was not based on any perceived obligations tied to the GPLv2 license. For business reasons and for customers, we determined it was beneficial to release the drivers to the kernel community under the GPLv2 license through a process that involved working closely with Greg Kroah-Hartman, who helped us understand the community norms and licensing options surrounding the drivers.”

If I’m reading the statement correctly, Microsoft disputes that the decision to release LIC under the GPLv2 was based on any obligations resulting from the use of GPLv2 components within the original LIC code available prior to July 20th.  Sam does state that Greg K-H helped Microsoft understand the “community norms and licensing options…”  Hence, the decision to release LIC under the GPLv2 was simply a business decision.  It is possible that the business decision was influenced by what customers and “the community” would think if the questions about the LIC compliance with the GPLv2 came to light.  Having said that, I can’t understand what value Micrsoft would see in keeping this code under a non Linux-friendly license.  By ensuring that this code makes it into the Linux kernel, Microsoft is making it much easier for customers to deploy Linux on Microsoft Windows 2008.  I go back to my “this was a business decision” view.

What do you think?

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

It’s been amusing to read all the “pigs flying” and “Armageddon is near” initial responses to news that Microsoft is contributing code under the GPLv2.

If you really thought this would never happen, then you’ve been under a rock for the past 3 years.  Or you’ve ignored Microsoft’s shifting stance towards open source.

Beyond the hype, the simple fact is that Microsoft made a business decision that will make its commercial software more attractive to buyers.  Full stop. (I’ve wanted to use that statement in a post for quite some time.)

Sure, the business decision involved making an open source contribution, under the GPLv2 no less.  But this is not as groundbreaking as some are suggesting.  The contribution has absolutely no viral impacts to Microsoft’s commercial software, nor does this action suggest that Microsoft is about to open source key parts of its software portfolio. On that point, why would any software vendor do so without a compelling business case?  The contribution makes it easier for customers to run Linux on top of their Windows Server 2008 license, so Microsoft’s revenue stream stands to benefit.  See the business case linkage?

To get excited about this news for the pigs flying factor is to ignore all the work that Sam Ramji’s team has been doing internally and externally over the past 3 plus years.  As Sam told Paul Krill and I, engineering teams at Microsoft are “much more open to open source today than ever before”.

There are surely more announcements from Microsoft regarding open source contributions in the pipeline.  And each of these announcements will be driven by a business case that advantages Microsoft’s products.  This is no different than the motivations of other companies participating in the open source ecosystem.

Microsoft’s “openness to open source” is surely linked to the growing evidence that enabling open source products to work with Microsoft’s commercial products will help Microsoft’s business.  This is a conclusion that IBM reached years ago when we got behind Linux, helped found Eclipse, contributed to Apache, etc.  And frankly speaking, Microsoft reached this conclusion long before yesterday’s announcement.  The public has simply been too busy ignoring Microsoft’s work around the open source ecosystem.  So, if anything the news coverage will be helpful to shift the “us vs. them” stance to a more constructive conversation.

Kudos to Sam, Robert and the Port25 team for their efforts in driving that constructive conversation.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Are you confused by reports that 60 percent of companies plan to skip Windows 7, while at the same time reading that Windows 7 is selling well in the US, UK and Japan and a recent IDC estimate of Windows 7 forecasted sales?  Join the club.

I didn’t think much of the survey of over 1,000 companies by ScriptLogic Corp. which suggested 60 percent of respondents had no plans to deploy Windows 7. Then I read IDC’s estimate of Windows 7 sales:

“IDC is forecasting Windows 7 shipments of 177 million units by the end of 2010. Forty million of those sales will be in 2009, says IDC.”

So I went back to the ScriptLogic results.  It turns out that 34 percent of respondents expect to deploy Windows 7 by the end of 2010 and 5.4 percent expect to deploy by the end of 2009.  It is unclear what percentage of the 60 percent without plans for Windows 7 will adopt a non-Microsoft operating system versus developing adoption plans at a later time.

How does one rationalize the ScriptLogic and IDC results?  While they seem to contradict each other, it’s important to start with the approximately 500 million Windows XP users today.  So, if 34 percent of Windows users do upgrade to Windows 7 by 2010 as the ScriptLogic survey suggests, that represents 170 million licenses.  The fact that this number is so close to IDC’s estimate is downright spooky.  I used to work in market research and did market forecasts for years so I use “spooky” in its scientific connotation.

There you have it, two sources suggesting that Windows 7 will be a failure and a success based on virtually the same data.  Makes me think of the quote: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

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