Close your eyes and imagine this scenario: Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer wakes up one day and says: “God, I love LibreOffice! It is a great alternative to Microsoft Office, and it makes people more enthusiastic about office suites in general!” Would this ever happen in a BILLION years? Probably not. Yet Red Hat’s CEO, the amazing Linux gentleman named Jim Whitehurst, recently said that he loves CENTOS. Nothing could be more demonstrative of how differently the Free Software community operates and thinks. Hatred and fierce competition are slowly being replaced by sharing and collaboration. Is this a better system? Only history will be able to answer that question. But it will certainly be a fascinating ride. In this short TLWIR piece, I will analyze Whitehurst’s recent comments, and reflect on what they mean to the GNU/Linux community.
How CENTOS and Oracle Linux Differ
CENTOS collaborates with Red Hat and shares with them. Oracle seems to leech off of Red Hat, in my opinion. This might just be a perception problem on Oracle’s part, but it seems to me that this is a recurring issue with them. They seem to be ruining Java, they dumped OpenOffice, they crushed OpenSolaris, and it seems to reflect an antagonistic trend towards free software principles. Oracle is a great company and a great success story, but they seem to have a dipolar relationship with the FOSS community, and I feel that this is a problem. You have to be either for us or against us, you cannot be both.
Why Whitehurst’s Views Show a Changing Corporate Culture
Corporations are changing. The fiercely competitive strategies of the 19th and 20th centuries are failing. From patent lawsuits to DirectTV customers losing access to Viacom channels, the nasty battles are spilling over into where they should never see the light of day: into the people spaces. I believe that Android phones and tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy line offer a better value than the Apple offerings, but Apple seems determined to take my choices away from me. I believe that these fights are taking far too much energy, and they are taking away from innovation. Whitehurst’s mentality is so refreshing because it clearly shows the way forward: instead of trying to destroy your competitor, it is much more effective to pool your talents with their’s, and then progress together. I find it ironic that companies that liberally took ideas from others back in the 1970s and 1980s now look to punish those who do the same thing to them in the 2010s.
I believe that the future lies in collaboration, not in each entity trying to re-invent the wheel from scratch by itself. It is cheaper, more efficient, and smarter to collaborate. The product will be delivered to the end user at a higher quality and at a lower cost.