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November 22, 1998

WHO WILL SPONSOR A LINUX CONSORTIUM?

By CBR Staff Writer

By William Fellows

Open source software guru Eric Raymond has been pressing for the creation of a Linux consortium that would take ultimate responsibility for the Unix-alike operating system away from Linus Torvalds and his cadre of 12 developers for more than four years. He hasn’t found anyone willing to put up the money to get the thing going. Such an organization, Raymond thinks, would provide a useful central store of Linux resources and provide more focus for the software. Raymond has been talking to Wall Street about open source, whose tongue was set wagging after Microsoft Corp’s fired some chaff to the effect that the open source model poses a threat to its business in the long-term. Raymond wrote the now famous white paper The Cathedral and the Bazaar, which explained the importance of open source software and posted Microsoft’s analysis – the Halloween Document – on the net. It may also have been a clever device, with the Department of Justice currently dragging it through the court in the Microsoft antitrust trial. Financial markets, which look ten years ahead have given Microsoft P/E ratios of over 50, more than twice the average. They clearly do not believe Linux will constrain Microsoft’s monopoly profits, government witness Frederick Warren-Boulton told the court last week. On a Merrill Lynch & Co call, Raymond explained to the investment community that one of the best things about open source is that as source program code is constantly reviewed by peers, it inevitably leads to highly reliable programs. Closed development systems such as those used in the rest of the industry, lead to packages and upgrades that lock customers into using unreliable programs. One day, Raymond muses, corporations may even have a fiduciary responsibility to buy open source. When IBM decided to offer Apache as part of its web package its lawyers effectively had to draw up a contract with a web site; Apache is not owned by anyone. Raymond said final versions of GNU and ADE interface open source programs should be ready in six to nine months.

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