Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 28th Mar 2006 21:49 UTC
OpenBSD "Theo de Raadt is the project leader for OpenBSD, a Unix-like operating system. We spoke with Theo about the upcoming release of OpenBSD, 3.9, the financial state of the project, and about companies that profit from free software without contributing back."
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rycamor
Member since:
2005-07-18

...should realize a deeper truth about large corporations: they are not really capitalist, and they are not necessarily well-run businesses. They exist because they have learned how to manipulate the government and social system(s) in question, as much as anything else. In the case of Sun, I'm sure much of this involves some nice long-term government contracts.

So saying such things as "why would a company pay when it doesn't have to?" Betrays a lack of understanding of strategic thinking. There are plenty of times a company will pay when it doesn't have to, *if* that payment provides a strategic advantage to that company, *and* if that company actually perceives a need for strategic thinking. For most reasonable (medium-to-smaller) technology business owners, contributing to something like OpenSSH is a no-brainer: it provides good publicity, and it ensures that this particular product will be available in the future. If I were a Sun stockholder, I would be outraged that this company is behaving so irresponsibly with my capital. Many non-technical industries spend a lot of money and effort at open infrastructures that benefit all. This is simply good strategy, and in fact validated by applied game theory.

But companies like Sun have proven time and time again that they do not approach business in a logical manner. They tend to operate purely on impulse or reaction. For example, Java was turned from an embedded OS for your coffee machine into an enterprise applicating platform mainly because Sun thought they needed to do something, anything to combat Microsoft. Did this make any sense? Not if you a) give the JVM and JDK away for free and b) make it run on your competitors' OS and hardware. What were they thinking? The fact that Sun is in business at all is more due to the weight of legacy systems and political shmoozing (and the fact that they do have some great engineers), but not in any way due to their amazingly shrewd management.

Would a company like Sun have any difficulty paying for a couple OpenSSH developers to come to their interoperability event? Not in the least. It wasn't a financial decision, nor was it a strategic decision. It was simply some middle manager's snap decision, with complete lack of courtesy and forethought.

Sun is not known for courtesy or forethought, though. For example, while giving Linux developers and easy path to providing licensed Java binaries for users, FreeBSD users are still forced to spend half a day compiling their own binaries. At one point Sun actually agreed to license Java to FreeBSD, and then quickly reversed their decision. Why? If they want Java to be used everywhere, why keep FreeBSD out in the cold? Again, it makes no sense on a strategic level. This company seems driven by emotional responses rather than any semblance of strategy. Don't blame capitalism. True capitalism would have weeded out companies like Sun a long time ago.

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