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What's Next For Open Source Development Labs?

Torvalds is still there, but its strategic focus is unclear.

Fallout from the Microsoft-Novell pact continued last week when the leading Linux group, Open Source Development Labs, cut nine of its staff of 28, including CEO Stuart Cohen, who resigned. OSDL's most famous employee, Linus Torvalds, owner of the Linux trademark and head of Linux kernel development, still works there.

Cohen angered members of the open source community last month by endorsing Novell's agreement with Microsoft to work on interoperability between Novell's Suse Linux and Windows. Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer's subsequent comments that Linux most likely contains Windows code didn't help.

OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen angered constituents when he backed Microsoft's Linux play
OSDL hasn't grown membership the way it's wanted to; its main source of revenue is a stagnant list of computer companies that pay annual dues. The lab's spending in 2004, the last year for which there's a filing, exceeded its $8.2 million revenue by $2.4 million. Cohen's salary that year: $507,278.

The layoffs left some of OSDL's constituency wondering what its next moves might be. "I hope it's a turn toward helping us more whole-heartedly on the software patent problem," Bruce Perens, who worked closely with Torvalds until recently, said in an E-mail.

Last year, the OSDL established a Patent Commons, to which its members may contribute and share patents. Dan Frye, VP of open systems development for IBM, an OSDL member, said in a statement last week that his company is looking forward to OSDL "extending legal initiatives to support Linux" as well as continuing many of its development projects.

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