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An Interview with Tim O'Reilly & Eric Raymond
Pages: 1, 2, 3

Sims: Speaking of people who are secure financially and turn instead to a technical challenge, Bill Gates's decision to move to chief software architect from the CEO position. I'm just wondering if this, at the highest level, reflects any sort of industry-wide move -- recognition that the technical challenges are at least what drive developers at heart.



O'Reilly: I don't know, I have to say it's certainly true to say that Bill Gates has moved beyond money. I'm not sure what's motivating him at this point, but I don't think that his move has much of anything to do with the stated story of "I'm going to do interesting technical challenges." It's a little bit of a shell game, you know, in the Justice Department face-off where he's basically trying to make himself a little bit less of a target.

Raymond: I kind of wonder, actually, if he isn't getting out of the line before the stock price crashes.

O'Reilly: Oh, well that's an interesting thought. So in other words, if there's a dump, he can say "Not on my watch" and preserve his reputation for posterity.

Sims: When we were talking about corporations embracing open source, Sun's decision to open Solaris 8, I wonder what either of you thinks of that.

Raymond: I think it's a shuck. What they're doing is not really opening the source. It's creating a sort of pseudo-openness where they talk the right game but keep proprietary control of the results.

O'Reilly: Let me make a slightly othogonal point to that, Eric. I've actually encouraged, not directly with Sun, I'd rather see them go a full open source route. But at least in theory, I think it's great that they're doing something like this because we will learn so much from it. There are so many different aspects of the open source story, and part of it has to do with, well, how much of it is simply just having access to the source code so that you can fix your own bug. You know, we hear that as one of the benefits. Well, under the Solaris model you'll be able to do that. So then the next question is, "Well, okay, no, no there's this whole part about redistribution, so that you can ... " Well, that part they're not doing. So what we'll find out is which of those things is more important to the community. We'll have a lot more data about what really matters in open source.

Raymond: We will find that out. I have confident expectations of what the answer will be.

O'Reilly: Yeah, but I'd rather find it out empirically, so I'm glad that Sun is running the experiment. Although I have to say, I mean, it's not a pure experiment in the sense that, you know, Linux has so much momentum and at bottom, this just looks like kind of a halfway me-too gesture which I think, at bottom, will just reinforce the Linux momentum.

Raymond: That's my read on it too.

O'Reilly: There's probably a time when Sun could have done it and reaped more benefits.

Raymond: If they had done this two years ago, it would have been big news. Now it's not.

O'Reilly: The other thing when I talked with Sun, I also pointed out you know it's kind of like break-up value in companies. You know, they asked me this three or four months ago, "Do you think we should open source Solaris?" and I said, "Well, even if you went full open source with it, I think you'd get more mileage out of open-sourcing pieces of it than you would out of open sourcing the whole thing." You know, the story's over. People don't want another open source operating system. You know, they want to improve the ones they've already got. So, for example, open source NFS will figure out what parts of their code base are better and put some of those things out, they would have got a lot more leverage than trying to unload the whole thing as a competitor to Linux.

Sims: That will allow people to redistribute that and make it ...

O'Reilly: Sure. Scott's always had this idea of, you know, "over my dead body will do X," and so they always come up with ...

"There's been a pattern of corporate announcements of 'No way will we have anything to do with open source.'" -- Eric Raymond

Raymond: Yeah, there's been a pattern of corporate announcements of "No way will we have anything to do with open source," and then two weeks later, pretty reliably, you see some kind of open source announcement. I interpret that those statements are a sign that something internal may be about to crack.

O'Reilly: Yeah, I think so too. I'd be surprised if we don't see some more, I won't say legitimate, but more real open source announcements from Sun, and at some point, they're basically looking at all this. They're basically market testing, if you like, different approaches to see how people react, and I think the momentum is certainly there for open source and for people to say, "Okay, you know, you either go all the way or don't pretend."

Sims: Well, given what you just said, Eric, is it unrealistic to expect an MS-Linux?

"I am fairly sure that there is already, however, a Linux-portable Office. I have some intelligence from inside Microsoft that strongly suggests that." -- Eric Raymond

Raymond: That is not something I feel like I have a good answer to. I am fairly sure that there is already, however, a Linux-portable Office. I have some intelligence from inside Microsoft that strongly suggests that, and it also makes sense for that to exist already if the people at Microsoft are smart enough to see that there's a wreck coming in their operating systems business -- and I think they are that smart.

O'Reilly: Yeah, I mean, you don't want to lose both markets.

Raymond: My projection of the immediate short-term future at this point is I think the OS monopoly is going to break decisively some time in the first six months of 2001, with the defection of one of the major gray-box OEMs, somebody on the level of a Dell or a Gateway. And within a week after that happens, we're going to see an announcement of Office for Linux.




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