Subject: Re: Red Hat and Cygnus unify
From: "Tim O'Reilly" <tim@oreilly.com>
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999 08:55:50 -0800



DJ Delorie wrote:
> 
> It's a sad day when the employees of a company have to read a public
> forum to learn about what's going on in their own companies.  This is
> the first I'd heard about this (aside from the "rumor" on Slashdot),
> and since it's being announced in this forum, I'm replying in this
> forum (trying to keep my focus on the relevence to this forum, of
> course).

Except for the fact that in a public company, the rules are that such
things must be done quietly to prevent insider trading.  If this had
been known, it would have broken all kinds of rules.  
> 
> > we have amicably and willingly signed a definitive agreement to
> > merge.
> 
> Sigh.  What happened to the "good old days" when companies had pride
> in their success, and fought to retain their independence?  Is this a
> sign that neither Cygnus nor Red Hat feel that they were being
> successful enough?  That, in the long run, money is more important
> than corporate morals, goals, and identity?  Is it the goal of all
> companies, fsbs or otherwise, to merge into the biggest conglomerates
> they can?

This seems a little overdrawn too.  How about:  "building momentum to
achieve their original mission."

Size does matter.  And despite Red Hat's huge market cap, it is a tiny
company.  It needs to get big fast, or it will be history because it
won't live up to that market cap.  This is why O'Reilly has never gone
that route--once you take money, the rules are different, and it's as
easy to be the goat as it is to be the god.  But note that this isn't
necessarily bad.  If having RH as a stronger competitor to MS is a good
thing, using the tools that you get from financing in the public markets
can be a really good thing.  It's a calculated risk, one that RH decided
to take, and if you don't understand the stakes, now is not the time to
complain.  The decision that led to the merger with Cygnus (and likely
with other OSS companies in the future) was one that was implicit in the
original decision by RH to go public.  It's not a surprise.
> 
> > To say that we are excited about the possibilities is the
> > understatement of the decade.
> 
> I would replace "excited" with "concerned" myself.  I think smaller
> companies can maintain focus better, will retain their links with the
> free software community better, and in general be more in tune with
> their corporate health.  I've worked for large companies, and I felt
> they couldn't even keep track of their own factions, let alone the
> outside community.

This is generally true.  It's not always true.  And in any event, for
OSS to reach certain markets, it needs players of some scale.
> 
> > We believe that by enabling developers from both companies to work
> > together more closely, with a common and larger purpose, we can
> > drive the open source revolution faster and further than otherwise
> > would be possible.
> 
> Is that a good thing?  I didn't realize we were in such a hurry to
> overturn the world order.  The free software movement has been about
> people doing the job right, not doing it quickly.  We see what happens
> when companies (MS) push for speedy delivery instead of quality work.
> Is this the fate of free software also?

I don't have any idea whether this merger is a good thing, but I sure do
think that it's short sighted not to give people even a chance to prove
that they can do the right thing.  This is so common in the free
software/open source community!  For a bunch of people who claim to "let
people scratch their own itch" in software, there are an awful lot of
conservatives who don't want to try anything different in the business
realm.

If RH/Cygnus go sour as a result of this merger or the pressure of the
public markets, the software is still out there, and someone else can
try again to get it right.  As I've said in different contexts, this
stuff is science, not religion.

My only beef is with companies (like MS) that use coercive licenses and
contracts to keep other people from doing good work.  I think that
anyone should be free to do whatever they like with their own work, or
with work that has been explicitly freed so that others can use it
without restriction.

In short, criticize RH/Cygnus if they start screwing up, not because
you're afraid they might.

-- 
Tim O'Reilly @ O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
101 Morris Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472
+1 707-829-0515, FAX +1 707-829-0104
tim@oreilly.com, http://www.oreilly.com