Subject: Vendor canonization (seriously, this time)
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 1999 10:53:52 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Brian" == Brian Bartholomew <bb@wv.com> writes:

    >> A number of commercial SW companies who've elected to support
    >> Linux have published their rationales (or at least what they
    >> _want_ you to think they think).

    Brian> Ooohhh!  Vendor certification.  What would serve as
    Brian> objective evidence that a vendor was strongly committed to
    Brian> charity, poverty, good value, libre, or at least
    Brian> non-Microsoft business practices?

"Charity" will take care of itself and "poverty;" its rewards are in
Heaven---I think the Resident There can take care of certification.

"Good value?"  Y'all know my opinion on that, and restating it isn't
going to change anybody's.

"Libre."  I would like to advocate a standard where developing and
actively maintaining and supporting a free software project, or
donating money, machines, and staff to free software projects, on an
ongoing basis, count as a "commitment to libre business practices."
Give credit where due; compliments are cheap.

A "strong commitment" would include things like abandoning a product
that is dominated by a free software implementation, actively looking
for ways to free proprietary code when it doesn't hurt the company
much (for example, Sun could remove what RMS has said to be the only
absolute barrier to reunification of the main line of GNU Emacs and
XEmacs by assigning its remaining copyright in a portion of XEmacs to
the FSF), advising clients whose needs are well satisfied by a free
software implementation to use it in preference to their own
proprietary implementation, actively maintaining a usable free
implementation parallel to a "high-end" proprietary version, etc.  Ie,
not only do they support free software, but they're willing to assign
some of their own potentially revenue-producing market to it.

That is, I think that a business unit which is actively opposing the
knee-jerk reaction to favor proprietary code in its own business
should be considered "strongly committed" to libre practices, since it
is actively extending the domain of free software.  Conversely, I
think that consultants who insist on recommending a free software
solution in the face of high quality reasonably priced proprietary
implementations must be suspected of lack of commitment to "good
value".  (Personally I would demand stronger evidence from the former
than the latter; free software is highly correlated with good value.
But not perfectly so.)

A "free software business" should depend for its existence on free
software; evidently this must go beyond "strong commitment."  For
example, I think that Cygnus's and Aladdin's commitments to freeing
all their code within a defined and reasonably short period of time,
including carefully writing contracts so that code written under them
will get freed, is sufficient to define them as free software
businesses.  (Note that "depending on free software" means that the
software happens to be free, or will be within a reasonable time.  It
doesn't mean that the company somehow gets revenues out of "freeing
software."  Rather, the company actively looks for ways to free the
software and doesn't sit on proprietary code because that's the easy
way to do business.)

Here again I would advocate allowing identifiable business units
within a large company to be considered "free software businesses" (or
"(strongly) committed to libre practices"), even though the larger
company is not at all committed.  The caveat would be that they can't
be considered to be dependably committed, since the owner could sell
them out or change the management completely.  But that could happen
to Red Hat now, too.

"Non-Microsoft practices"?  Total non-starter.  Far too few people
care to make it worth the inevitable libel suit.

-- 
University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
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What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."