This Week in Open Source News for Feb 6 – Feb 12

This is the second Sunday installment of the weekly open source news spotlight to cover the hottest open source news. Unfortunately, this has been a slow week for open source news. I suspect that most companies are holding press releases and other announcements until the Open Source Business Conference February 14th & 15th in San Francisco. I will be attending the conference, and I hope to find time to blog from the event next week.

The GPL debate continued this week with a number of open source advocates calling for patience during this process. They stress that the license is still in the draft phase, and it is too early to predict with any certainty what the final product will or will not contain. They caution against taking a strong stance on whether or not to accept GPL V3 until the license is in its final stages.

The most interesting rumor of the week is that Oracle may acquire three popular open source companies: JBoss, Zend, and Sleepcat. This follows a recent acquisition of Innobase, an open source database company. Oracle is embracing open source software and planning to charge regular fees based on a subscription business model, rather than charging per license. Subscription models that charge users for support and maintenance have been one of the most popular open source business models. This news concerns me for a couple of reasons.

  • First, Oracle could gain considerable control over the open source stack, which according to one source close to the deal, is exactly what Oracle plans to do. When any one company gains too much control over the ecosystem, it tends to stifle innovation and reduce interoperability.
  • Second, Oracle may not be able to effectively assimilate these companies. Oracle is still digesting the Siebel and PeopleSoft acquisitions, which tends to be a lengthy and difficult process that can become self-destructive when too many companies are acquired in a short period of time without giving the companies enough time to work out the internal thrash. These open source companies may be more difficult to assimilate given their unique corporate cultures. Open source companies tend to have cultures that are very different from more traditional, proprietary companies, which may result in an internal culture clash between Oracle employees and open source employees.

The companies are still in talks and have not finalized any of these deals. Some speculate that JBoss may not be worth the price they are asking; however, Marc Fleury (JBoss CEO / Founder) is a smart guy who has repeatedly stressed that JBoss is not for sale, and he may be using the high price to keep JBoss independent unless it becomes really lucrative to become acquired. I will be anxiously watching as these deals develop.

Eclipse, the open source Java development tool, is cited in the news several times this week as big competition for other Java development products. Oracle goes head to head with Eclipse by releasing their new free version of JDeveloper, while Borland exits the tools business with plans to sell JBuilder and other tools citing competition with Eclipse as one reason for this departure.

Novell helps to enhance the look and feel of the Linux desktop this week with the release of considerable enhancements to the XGL framework. Enhancements include a virtual desktop affixed to a cube that rotates, transparent objects, and increased text display speeds.

One final tidbit … This week, Sun and ran ads on the sides of buses in Microsoft’s home town of Redmond, WA.

Check back next week for another rundown of the week’s top open source stories.