The CEO of a large IT company says that large IT companies are the key to the success of Linux and open source, and not communities.
It’s all very amusing because in the end Linus and Andrew Morton don’t ask IBM, Intel, or Oracle, what to allow into the kernel, rather it’s IBM, Intel, and Oracle engineers who ask Linus and Andrew to let their stuff in. In fact it’s even more complicated than that because probably someone from Oracle is the maintainer for one sub system, and someone from Intel another sub system, IBM another, and so on, so they are all asking each other to accept their patches with Linus and Andrew the ultimate arbiters. Which all sounds terribly polititcal, except it isn’t because the fact it’s GPL means that code flows in all directions, engineers talk to engineers in the open and avoid all of the legal and contractual issues that cross corporation work would normally entail. (Anyone remember the debacle that was OS/2).
It also amuses me how these guys never learn from history – IBM lost control of the PC market on two fronts; the open architecture of the hardware meant they lost that to Compaq, Dell, and others, and the decision to outsource the operating system to Microsoft (not once but twice!) eventually led to a flipover point in the late 80’s or early 90’s where IBM needed Microsoft more than Microsoft needed IBM (a situation which has irked the corporate psyche of IBM ever since OS/2 lost and this became obvious).
If you took away to corporate involvement with Linux (and other healthy open-source projects) then the community would change, but would carry on mostly unaffected. However if you took the community out of Linux devleopment – took away the openness, the independent leadership, the ‘no single company in control’ – then would Oracle, et al, want to, or even be able to continue? My guess is that already Oracle and IBM need Linux more than Linux needs them.