Do We Need To Stifle Creativity of OSS Developers?


I first met Pierre Fricke in late 1998 or early 1999 when he was working for IBM. He was one of four people charged by IBM to research and evaluate the strategic implications of open source software for IBM’s business. Because I was a founder of the world’s first open source company, he was keen to understand what I saw back in 1989, what I saw looking to 1999 and beyond, and whether our experience (which earned upwards of $24M of revenue in 1999) could possibly inform the strategy for a company more than 1000x our size.

My advice at the time was this: if IBM never recognized a penny of open source revenue, open source could still greatly benefit IBM by streamlining and standardizing four completely disparate hardware lines: the S/390 mainframe, the AS/400, the RS/6000 Unix workstations and servers, and the commodity PC business. I suggested that the efficiencies gained through such standardization would enable IBM to become a far more innovative company, while giving customers both more and better choices across the IBM brands. The fact that IBM later rationalized their hardware offerings of zSeries, iSeries, pSeries, and xSeries with Linux as the common denominator does not mean that IBM took my advice. But it does mean that something Pierre wrote in his report made it to the top.

Pierre now works for JBoss, a division of Red Hat, as do I (through the acquisition of Cygnus in 2000). And with those disclosures out of the way, let me steer you to a blog posting that speaks for itself:


[We] need to stifle creativity in the open source community and control these standards
— A Proprietary Software Vendor.

Do you agree?