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3/29/2005
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Sun: God's Gift To Open Source

I don't know which Sun PR flak is responsible for putting words into COO Jonathan Schwartz's mouth nowadays. But if Schwartz is aiming for a career in standup comedy, he'd better bring them along with him.

I don't know which Sun PR flak is responsible for putting words into COO Jonathan Schwartz's mouth nowadays. But if Schwartz is aiming for a career in standup comedy, he'd better bring them along with him.

Maybe I'm not giving Schwartz enough credit. It's possible that when he recently told InformationWeek that Java Enterprise System "will define Sun as the only company that is truly committed to open source as a means of driving innovation and adoption," he was speaking completely off the cuff.

Either way, I got a nice laugh out of the comment. Sure, when Schwartz describes Sun as a giant standing astride an open-source world populated mostly by ignorant midgets, it's hard to tell that he's kidding. But what reasonable person would deliver a line like that unless he meant to follow it with a rim shot and a plea to take his wife, please?

A while back, Sun and Red Hat traded a few pleasantries by way of blog entries from both companies' executives. At the time, a Red Hat VP declared Sun a none-too-benevolent spectator at the open-source games: Imagine Scot McNealy's butt planted in a box seat next to Steve Ballmer, both of them throwing beer cups and talking smack about the players' mammas, and you get the picture. It was an empty and pointless attack, since Sun may have contributed more open-source code over the years than any other company on the planet.

If Schwartz was serious--and being a smart guy who makes a lot more money than I do, I'm sure he wasn't--then his comment amounts to the same kind of empty rhetoric. In fact, it's worse: It's common knowledge that Open Solaris came out of a debate among Sun's top management looking like a cat that someone had drop-kicked into the dog pound. And while I still agree with Sun that the open-source treatment isn't necessarily the best cure for what ails Java, the company didn't exactly define itself as an open-source paladin during the Java debate.

Anyway, just in case anyone took Schwartz's remark at face value when, let's tweak it in the interests of truth in advertising: Open-sourcing JES "will define Sun as one of many corporate players in the open-source community with conflicting motives, limited capabilities, and a constant, overriding need to place the interests of its shareholders above the best interests of the community when the two happen to conflict."

OK, so it ain't gonna fly on Comedy Central. It's a good thing I'm keeping my day job.

Matt McKenzie is the editor of Linux Pipeline. A permanent link to this article is available here.

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