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A loss for free software movement?

Started by rajoe, Apr 21, 2009, 03:29 PM

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A loss for free software movement?

In an interview to TOI over the phone from San Francisco last month, Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz said that in a survey the
company did among 2,000 students worldwide, less than 6% knew Oracle, but over 90% knew Sun's rival database product MySQL. He also said there was "unprecedented migration" to free software like MySQL, especially from Oracle database customers.

Schwartz saw free software as enormously more popular than proprietary software like those of Oracle and Microsoft among segments like students, who have more time than money. Universities, he said, are major seeding grounds for innovations in free and open source products. "And when these students join the workforce or start their own companies, they disproportionately tend to select free software," he said.

Yet, he has now been compelled to sell out to the very company he thought he was out-smarting. The free software evangelist had hoped to make money by charging for services that would ensure that the applications that his freesoftware run will never fail. For many big companies, the cost of downtime is measured in millions of dollars a minute. If you're tracking packages or fleets of aircraft, running an emergency response network or a trading floor, you just can't afford to allow the system to go down even for a minute. "And that's our business model, we offer utterly exceptional service, support and enterprise technologies to those that have more money than time," Schwartz wrote in his blog recently.

In other words, the idea was to build a powerful developer network (India had the biggest Sun network with 7.8 lakh developers) by giving its software free to "those that have more time than money", and sell its service and support to "those that have more money than time".

But looks like that strategy ran out of time. The global recession took a toll on the high end systems Sun traditionally has been most dependent on (that strategy too was changing, but again too late). "Our high end business was up 20% a little over a year ago, it was down more than 20% in the December quarter of 2008 across the industry, customers are holding off on big ticket purchases," Schwartz blog says.

So what happens now to Sun's free software movement? Some analysts think products like MySQL are safe in Oracle's hands. "MySQL would make an excellent complement to Oracle's existing database business," writes an analyst in Infoworld.com. "MySQL's user base sits largely at what you might describe as the low end of the database market: web sites, departmental servers, and single-use installations, for example. That's a niche that has been slipping through Oracle's fingers as its own database has grown in sophistication, complexity, and cost. By acquiring Sun, Oracle would be able to offer its customers a popular, well-recognised entry-level database, with an implicit upgrade path to Oracle's proprietary product as those customers' needs grow."

Sun's Java is also seen to be critical to some of Oracle's key strategies.

Yet, open source supporters are likely to feel a sense of loss. But all those can take heart from this line from Schwartz: "Fighting free and open software is like fighting gravity".


why they are saying loss for free software
it as only trail version in free

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