Subject: Re: Fwd: Wall Street article on a new Cooperative
From: Bernard Lang <Bernard.Lang@inria.fr>
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2004 18:25:07 +0200


I read the other contributions so far ...

2 questions:

- what are the $30,000 for ?  If many join, that can make a nice pot.

   is there development done by the project ?

- can Microsoft, IBM, or some other software house join ... they might
get ideas for their own proprietary software.


reminds me of the old democracies ...  only free citizens benefitted,
i.e. a small part of the population.  But in the long run, democracy
was extended to all (even though most do not care, but that is another
story)
  In other words, this may be a way to dip one toe in the free
software pool.

  I am not really convinced this will work in the long run. Free
software works better where there is a large community of users, which
is precisely what they won't have.  But maybe they'll learn free
software.
  SUN should definitely join, and throw in OpenOffice ... just for fun.

  In France, we started an association with a similar purpose, called
ADULLACT.  But it is an association of local communities (from small
town to even national government bodies).  The purpose is to mutualize
software development and technical solutions, via the association, so
that everyone benefits, without paying several times for it.  Whatever
is produced is free software (GPL).  There may be some free-riders,
but apparently people feel more confortable chipping in and having
rights (there may be some minor advantages too).  So far it works
well.

  This would be better for companies too, but I guess they trust each
other less than geographically or institutionally separated
governments bodies.

Bernard


On Mon, Apr 19, 2004 at 01:23:26PM -0400, L Jean Camp wrote:
> 
> 
> Begin forwarded message:
> > Avalanche Project
> > Is Clearing the Path
> > For Tech Cooperation
> > April 12, 2004; Page B1
> >
> > Co-ops have been a fact of life inU.S. agriculture for decades, with 
> > farmers banding together to solve common problems. Now, a group of 
> > computer chiefs at some of America's biggest companies are trying to 
> > do the same thing with technology.
> >
> > If their Project Avalanche is a success, and it's hard to imagine it 
> > failing, it will be the biggest thing to hit the technology scene 
> > since open-source software like Linux. And just as with Linux, 
> > Avalanche threatens to be enormously disruptive to many of the tech 
> > industry's big players.
> >
> > Avalanche is the brainchild of Andrew Black, head of computer 
> > operations at Jostens Inc., the people who make class rings, and Scott 
> > Lien, who holds the same post for ePredix, which does employee > 
> > testing.
> >
> > Both companies are inMinneapolis. Three years ago, the two men found 
> > themselves in the sort of gripe session common to their line of work. 
> > Why, they asked each other, were they writing such big checks to their 
> > software companies, but getting so little in return? Why were their 
> > in-house programming staffs writing the same sorts of custom programs 
> > written at thousands of other companies? If Detroit car makers can 
> > collaborate on research, why couldn't U.S. technology users?
> >
> > The problem, they decided, was an imbalance of power between 
> > technology companies and their customers. Project Avalanche is their 
> > way of restoring that balance.
> >
> > Avalanche is a legally constituted intellectual-property cooperative. 
> > Companies pay $30,000 a year to become members. They can then donate 
> > any in-house software they choose to the Avalanche library, with the 
> > project becoming the legal owner of the code. Project members get to 
> > use, free of charge, any of the other programs in the library.
> >
> > While just a few weeks out of the chute, Avalanche already has some 
> > impressive sponsors, including tier-one names like Best Buy, Cargill 
> > and Medtronic. The group has a board of directors and full-time CEO, 
> > Jay Hansen, a former IT consultant. Its Web site is 
> > www.avalanchecorporatetechnology.com1. Maybe it will buy itself a 
> > shorter URL one of these days.
> >
> > Mr. Black says most of the past three years have been spent ironing 
> > out legal issues to immunize companies from the risks associated with 
> > either giving their software to Avalanche or using programs they get 
> > from it.
> >
> > One of the first software donations to Avalanche was from Best Buy. It 
> > is a piece of so-called plumbing software called AppTalk that allows 
> > programs to communicate with each other. It may not be sexy stuff, but 
> > it took Best Buy about 100 programmer-years to write it.
> >
> > John Schmidt, the Best Buy executive in charge of AppTalk, says his 
> > company was willing to give it away because it expects to benefit from 
> > the additional improvements made to the program from the others using 
> > it. Those improvements could also be donated back to the Avalanche 
> > library, a technique common in the open-source software world.
> >
> > While many of the programs donated to Project Avalanche will work with 
> > Linux, it isn't a precondition. Avalanche takes all kinds of software, 
> > including programs that work with Windows. Members, says Mr. Hansen, 
> > aren't expected to give away any in-house software that gives their 
> > companies a unique competitive advantage.
> >
> > So what exactly is so threatening about this effort to big software 
> > companies? Just listen to the plans the men have for the group.
> >
> > Suppose, says Mr. Lien, that some Avalanche members chipped in money 
> > to create custom software to run their call centers? Any other 
> > Avalanche member would then be able to use the code -- and wouldn't 
> > have to write checks for millions of dollars to Siebel Systems, which 
> > makes much of its money on these sorts of programs.
> >
> > Or, asks Mr. Black, what if Avalanche members collaborated on a 
> > foolproof collection of open-source programs that could be used on 
> > their corporate desktops instead of the Windows and Office 
> > combinations from Microsoft? Mr. Black grumbles about having to pay 
> > Microsoft hundreds of dollars a year per employee for programs like 
> > word processing and spreadsheets, which he says should be commodities 
> > by now.
> >
> > The men sayU.S. companies have all sorts of talented programmers on 
> > staff, and could easily match, or exceed, the quality of the code from 
> > the best-known software companies. Their ultimate goal is to allow 
> > companies to spend less of their time and money on fairly generic 
> > software, much of which brings no specific business advantage, and 
> > more working on projects that will bring clear benefits to their 
> > business.
> >
> > Because large corporations like those in Avalanche are the biggest 
> > customers of software companies, any shift like this would have 
> > enormous repercussions. The last thing any company wants is to have 
> > its customers banding together.
> >
> > As residents ofMinnesota, Mr. Black and Mr. Lien know their snow, and 
> > they say the name of their project was carefully chosen. An avalanche 
> > isn't only unstoppable, it also either buries everything in its path 
> > or carries everything along. Software companies may soon be needing to 
> > choose their fate.
> >
> >  
> >
> >  
> >
> > Dr. Costis Toregas, President Emeritus
> >
> > Public Technology Inc.
> >
> > 1301 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Suite 800
> >
> > WashingtonDC20004
> >
> > (202)-626-2411
> >
> > cell 301-814-5613
> >
> > toregas@pti.org
> >
> >  
> >
> >
> >
> >  
> >

-- 
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