Open Innovation

From The Inquirer, describing the delicate relations between Sun and the JBoss Group:

Evolution cannot be stopped, and nobody pushes the evolution of software better or faster than the Open Source Movement.

Indeed, about all the innovation that currently happens in the IT world comes from the Open Source world. What was the most recent advance in the IP field? Creative Commons. What has fostered significant progress on the Internet in the past few years, such as accessibility, communication protocols, innovation in the browsers? Open standards.

Open, Commons, Standards. Different initiatives in even more different fields, but all based on the idea that innovation needs a fertilizer, voluntary contributions of valuable works to the commons on which you can grow even more, because innovations do not come from spontaneous generation.

These movements happen everywhere. Linus Torvald, father of Linux, is Finnish. MySQL is a Swedish company. The W3C originates from the CERN, a European research center based in Geneva and has now feet in Europe, Japan and the US. Creative Commons comes from the US. But it strikes me that only in the US has the contrast between the commons (free the penguin) and private property (Commons? You mean communism?) gone so far and so wild.

It is as if this country had gone bipolar. There, it turned into a David against Goliath battle. Battles, actually, in every corner.

The IT industry cannot count without open source anymore. Lack of vision, fear, economic turmoil and inertia incapacitate the incumbents, which have not fully recovered from the dotcom hangover (gueule de bois) yet. This white paper from Marc Fleury, CEO of the JBoss Group and a significant annoyance for the respectable Sun, sheds some light in a probable future where actors will have to deal with open source rather than ignore it. If Java is not your cup of tea, what about web servers (Apache vs. Microsoft's IIS), databases (MySQL vs. Oracle) or content management systems (Zope and al. vs. Interwoven)? Considering the amount of small and medium businesses which need to get real productivity boost for their money, it is only a matter of time before open source starts threatening the CRM and ERP goldmines of SAP and alikes. The next step is professional open source.

The IP industry is the perfect example where David is born because Goliath has gone too far and too greedy. In a world where some want to redefine property as private property only, it is only normal that others throw the public domain to balance this extreme. The Mouse has created (or simply revealed) the necessity of the commons. I used the word bipolar on purpose, because the IP battle that is currently happening in the US is really getting dirty, where IP extremists are ready to everything, from technological locks backed up by local law (DMCA) or even international treaties. The future here is not clear to me, because the present situation opposes two extremes where one is clearly not constructive. I simply wish it will spawn a brand new movement that will be to the IP world what environmentalism has been to ecology.

As for the standards, they are as good as they get. Standards emerge to prevent divergence but do not come easily. Standardization bodies must face many stakeholders, with sometimes opposing interests:

  • Standards must provide an appropriate answer to a real need (from an end user's perspective)

  • they must be free from IP locks (royalties and patents free) or provide reasonable and non discriminatory licenses. The W3C faced harsh discussions regarding the introduction of RAND licenses on its standards, and finally dropped them. The MPEG4 standard body spent two years discussing its license scheme, only to expose its disagreements in public and jeopardize its future (you don't leave two years to competition in that space)

  • they must be adopted by all actors in the "food chain". The perfect example here begin web standards, they have no value for end users if browsers and tools makers do not implement them correctly in their software and this is a pre-requisite before sites producers start using them

I wish that Europe will take some time to rethink its politics regarding those aspects, and decides if it continues to blindly copy the US or set the cursor where it sees its own balance. This should logically bring me to politics, but gosh, I really need some sleep now.

1 TrackBack

Un excellent article de notre Padawan favori, met en relation logiciel libre, propriété intellectuelle et standards ouverts. Pour boucler la boucle, faut-il préciser à quel point tout le monde profite des standards ouverts comme ceux du W3C, et que l... Read More

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